While he’d prefer to downplay it and focus on his team and business as usual, make no mistake -- this is a very big deal to those in Herb Magee’s inner circle.And it's a circle that just seems to keep widening.
His wife, Geri, says it was wonderful hearing from so many people from the past, even men who preceded him at the school known as Philadelphia Textile until 1999. Chas, the only other survivor among the four Magee brothers who were raised by their uncle after their parents died, says there’s not much left for his little brother — who’s already been inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA -- to accomplish.
His daughter, Kay, who runs men’s basketball operations while also working as a math professor there, says her Dad’s story is a testament to a man who -- once he found a home -- decided never to leave.
And his former players — at least 45 of whom turned out when he hit the “magic number’’ Saturday --say it’s his ability to adapt while keeping things in perspective, yet never losing his enthusiasm, that’s made him special.
That’s what Herb Magee’s 1000 wins in 48 years Philadelphia University means to them. It’ a feat so extraordinary no one — not even Mike Krzyzewski, who started out at Army before heading to Duke —has done it before among NCAA men’s coaches.
"To do it year in and year out is amazing," said Ray Tarnowski, Class of ’77, back when Magee reached the 200-win mark. "The game has changed. The players change.But his passion never changes. He doesn’t want to make a big deal of this. He just wants to win the next game."
And teach them his players something along the way.
"It’s amazing the career he’s had and the way he develops players,’’ said Mike Louden (’89), No. 2 in assists and the school’s all-time steals leader, whose son, Mike Jr., now plays for Herb. "No matter how the game changes he changes with it and produces winners every year."
But you’d never know it at home.
"He’s been pretty normal," said Geri Magee, during win No. 999, a 77-47 rout of Caldwell. "He just wants to get it over with and get on with the season. He doesn’t want to take away from what they’re trying to accomplish."
Through 48 years Magee has accomplished more than any of them could’ve imagined. Most important, he’s passed it on.
"No one who’s ever gone here has not benefited from playing under Herb," said Al Angelos, Class of ’80. "It’s beyond belief that he’s won 1,000 games."
And never left his tiny Henry Ave. cocoon.
"I think it says a lot for a guy to spend his whole life on one sideline,’’ said daughter, Kay Magee, who also handles Herb Magee Basketball, which includes his camp and shooting videos. "He’s legitimate.My Dad chooses happiness. He does not chase it. I’m very proud and happy for him."
Today she has plenty of company.