As he enters his 48th season of coaching, Herb Magee has built Philadelphia University men’s basketball into one of the top programs in the Division II landscape. The winningest men’s basketball coach in NCAA history and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, Magee owns a career record of 985-391, a winning percentage of .716.
Magee has led the Rams to 27 NCAA Tournaments, including 11 region finals, three national quarterfinals and the 1970 NCAA College Division National Championship. His coaching has helped 12 players earn All-American recognition, including 2007 Daktronics NCAA Division II Player of the Year Christian Burns, and 41 players score at least 1,000 career points, including the school’s all-time leading scorer Tayron Thomas (2,414 points).
Last season, Magee led the Rams to a 25-7 overall record, won the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) championship for the first time since 2009, and qualified for the NCAA Division II East Region Tournament. It was the 11th time under Magee that Philadelphia posted at least 25 victories.
During the 2009-10 team’s run to the national quarterfinals, Magee won his 903rd career game to pass Bobby Knight for first on the NCAA men’s basketball coaching wins list. The milestone victory came on February 23, 2010 by a 76-65 score over visiting Goldey-Beacom. This achievement came nearly three years to the day, February 1, 2007, that Magee became the Division II men’s basketball wins leader after picking up his 829th win to pass Clarence “Big House” Gaines.
When Magee—a 1963 graduate from Philadelphia Textile with degree in marketing—took over the team in 1967, the Rams enjoyed immediate success as they won at least 20 games 10 times in his first 12 seasons and made 11 NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Rams’ most success during that stretch came in the 1969-70 season. After a slow 1-2 start, Philadelphia found its stride and won 28 straight games, the final 26 by double figures. The team’s final victory was by a 76-65 triumph over Tennessee State in Evansville, Ind., and gave the school its first national championship.
Magee’s achievements had led to an impressive list of honors, most notably induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. His induction class included Chris Mullin, Dennis Rodman, Arvydas Sabonis, Kansas State head coach Tex Winter, and Stanford women’s basketball head coach Tara VanDerveer.
He is also enshrined in the West Catholic High School Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (1979), Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (1979), Philadelphia University Athletics Hall of Fame (1984), Philadelphia Area Small College Basketball Hall of Fame (2002), and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (2008).
In 2005, Magee was selected as a “Guardian of the Game” by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) under its Education core value and was honored at the NCAA Division I Final Four. Two years later, Magee was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philadelphia Sports Congress. The Philadelphia Sports Writers Association tabbed Magee as its “Living Legend” on January 30, 2012.
In 1976, Magee earned the NABC Division II Co-Coach of the Year Award along with Puget Sound’s Don Zech. He has also been recognized as the NABC Division II East District Coach of the Year (1971, ’73, ’89, ’93), Kodak District Coach of the Year (1993), Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year (2008, ’10), New York Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year (1993, ’94, ’04), and Mideast Collegiate Conference Co-Coach of the Year (twice).
As a player at Philadelphia Textile from 1959 until 1963, Magee had a stellar career. An all-American in 1962 and 1963, Magee averaged a school record 29.1 points per game in 1962. He graduated from the school with a then-school record 2,235 points. His scoring prowess helped the Rams go 75-17 in Magee’s four years and reach the national quarterfinals on the NCAA Tournament.
After graduation, Magee was taken by the Boston Celtics with the 62nd pick of the 1963 NBA Entry Draft. Magee chose not to join the Celtics and went back to Textile to serve as an assistant coach under his mentor Walter “Bucky” Harris—a position he held until taking the reigns of the program in 1967.
Dubbed “The Shot Doctor”, Magee frequently works with NBA players on the art of the jump shot, including 2006 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Charles Barkley, Jameer Nelson of the Orlando Magic, and Evan Turner of the Philadelphia 76ers. He has also produced a pair of instruction DVDs: “Nothing But Net” and “Nothing But Drills”.