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Shot Doctor Magee tops victories list
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Forsyth County News
How good a teacher is The Shot Doctor?

Well, he’s good enough for Larry Bird.

In his glory days with the Celtics, Bird wasn’t a bad shot himself. Remember the story of Bird strolling into the locker room before the NBA’s annual three point contest?

Bird glanced around at the best shooters in the league and sneered with disdain, “So, this is who’s fighting for second place?”

But when Bird sought to improve the collective shooting of his current charges, the Indiana Pacers, he didn’t try to fix their shooting touches himself. He called The Shot Doctor.

Herb Magee.

And, since February 23rd, Magee just happens to be the winningest men’s basketball coach in NCAA history.

So why haven’t you heard of Herb Magee? Because he notched all 903 wins at Philadelphia University, the former Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.

In fact, Magee arrived on campus 50 years ago and never left. Even then, Division I schools were loathe to recruit a 5-foot-9 guard, regardless of how well he could shoot.

Magee became a two-time Division II All-America, and finished his playing career as the Rams’ all-time leading scorer, with 2,235 points. He still ranks third on that list. His single season scoring average record of 29.1, set in 1962, remains unsurpassed.

The Rams went 75-17 with Magee in uniform, which caused the NBA champion Celtics to pick him in the seventh round of the 1963 draft. Magee said no thanks.

“I should have tried out,” Magee told Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News. “But at the time, I had two broken fingers, and the paycheck wasn’t like it is today. I was going to get $5,000 a year. And here’s the deal: they also had (Bob) Cousy, K. C. (Jones) and Sam Jones in the backcourt.”

So, Magee accepted Bucky Harris’ offer to become an assistant coach at his alma mater. Magee took over the program in 1967. He was 25 years-old.

His first year, the Rams went 21-6. The next year they went 20-5. In his third year, they lost two of their first three, and never lost again. They finished 29-2, defeating Tennessee State, 76-65, for Magee’s National Championship in 1970.

You can’t be a slouch and win 900 games, at any level. Magee’s teams have won 72 percent of their games. His record stood at 903-352 the night he broke Bob Knight’s wins record. He’s rung up 30 seasons with 20 wins, against only three losing seasons.

A brief word about those: two were 13-14 records (‘81-’82 and ‘96-’97). The third was a 10-14 mark in ‘73-’74, the only season in his first 10 years that his Rams failed to win at least 20 games. But even losing, rare as it is, never bothers Magee.

“The dude was always leaping like a leprechaun in the locker room after a win,” former assistant and current Navy head coach Billy Lange told Kevin Armstrong of the New York Times. After those myriad wins, the coaches would meet for 15 minutes, and then head out to a local pub.
After losses, they’d meet for five minutes. And then head out to a local pub.

Which is where he met his wife, Geri. She was tending bar at the Yankee Doodle Inn, and Magee made an instant impression.

“He can spell words backward,” Geri told Armstrong. “Including supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I married a “Rain Man” type!”

“He’s wired differently,” Jim Lynam told Armstrong. Lynam, a current Sixers assistant coach, played with Magee at West Catholic High. Lynam tried to hire Magee for his staff when Lynam was head coach of the Clippers and Wizards, but Magee was quite content on Henry Avenue in the East Falls Section of Philadelphia.

And that’s where he was on the evening of February 23, looking for the record-breaking win. His opposing coach just happened to be a former player, Chuck Hammond.

“I called him earlier this week,” Magee told Weiss. “I told him, ‘leave your three best guys at home. I got you the job. I can get you fired!”

Magee had no reason to worry. His Rams jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and cruised to a 76-65 win. The standing room only crowd at the Gallagher Athletic Center, which, based on various reports, meant a throng of 1,300-2,500 people, included Villanova coach Jay Wright and Temple coach Fran Dunphy. St. Joseph’s athletic director Don DiJulia was there, as well as representatives from Philadelphia’s other three Division I schools.
Philadelphia University had received 50 media credential requests, which is about 48 more than usual. Fans wore maroon t-shirts with “Magee” on the back. Near the end, they chanted “903! 903!” and “This is Herb’s House!” And when it ended, they released balloons and confetti, and Magee went into the stands for handshakes and hugs.

“This is a wonderful night!” he told the crowd. “Thanks for all your support!”

“When the game started, you could see the enthusiasm,” Magee told Dan Gelston of the Associated Press. “I’m sure these guys felt it. I think every student in school was here, along with the faculty and administration. It was amazing. Just amazing.”

Just like Herb Magee’s career.