Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)
There are splashes of burgundy across the Gallagher center amid the navy and bright blue attire that fans are wearing.
And the closer you are to the seats behind Jefferson University’s bench, the more burgundy you see.
George Forster, who played golf under Herb Magee in the 1970s, sports a custom shirt for Magee's impending retirement. (Photo: Jerome Taylor/CoBL)
In the two sections directly behind the bench, the sight makes sense. In those two sections reserved for men’s basketball alumni and friends and family of Herb Magee, you’ll see several shirts that read “Textile & PhilaU & Jefferson & Herb Magee.”
Those dressed in burgundy are representing Philadelphia Textile and Philadelphia University, the previous names of Jefferson University.
Though the names of the school and the players on the court may change, one thing has remained constant: Herb Magee.
But, on Tuesday evening after 54 seasons, the Shot Doctor coached his final home game at the intersection of Henry Ave. and School House Lane. True to form, the Naismith Hall of Famer treated it like any other game.
“I had all of last year [to think about my career], I knew I was going to do this. It’s not like it happened over night,” Magee said. “My family may not have been prepared as I have, my girls are upset.”
“But you got to go some time; 54 years, I think that’s enough.”
In the quest for his 14th Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Championship, Magee’s Rams (21-5) nabbed the top seed in the South Division after a 16-2 league record, earning a home game in the CACC tournament.
The home-court advantage and stellar play from freshmen played a part in the Rams winning 83-69 in their quarterfinal matchup against Nyack.
“We’re very motivated to win for him since this is his last year coaching,” freshman Bismark Nsiah said.
Nsiah scored 21 points in the win, and second-year freshman (due to Jefferson University not participating in the 2021 season due to COVID) will be one of the last players to receive full-time tutelage from Magee. And he’ll remember the free-throw knowledge Magee imparted on him.
“To hold my follow through on the free throw,” Nsiah said. “There was one day in practice where I couldn’t make a free throw, and he stood with me for ten minutes saying, ‘aim for the backboard, aim for the backboard,” and I just shot it, and I made ten in a row, and I’ve been making free throws ever since.”
“What you can’t do with free-throw shooters during the season is change them,” Magee said about Nsiah’s improvement while imparting some free free-throw shooting wisdom. “The way you change a guy’s shot is in the offseason… you can’t go to the foul line thinking about what you’re supposed to do, it’s got to be boom, boom, boom – automatic.”
“Biz improved all around, this is only his first year playing, and he’s solid. He’s going to have a good career.”
Herb Magee (above, during the 2019-20 season) won his final game at the Gallagher Athletic Center on Tuesday evening. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Nsiah made both of his attempts from the line in the win, which was Magee’s 1,164th – second only to fellow Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski (1,195). The win also put Magee on the path to reaching his 32nd NCAA tournament, which he won in 1970 when Jefferson University was still Philadelphia Textile.
“[Winning a conference championship] would be tremendous; winning any game, I mean that’s why you coach,” Magee said. “The thing about it now is if you lose, we’re not going to get an at-large bid, so if you lose the season’s over.”
And though Magee treats most of his wins equally, the last home game did have a little extra meaning.
“My fondest moment coaching is when we won the national championship,” Magee said. “But in this gym, they’re all the same… the last game is the one you think about, and we were fortunate to win tonight, so that’s the one you think about.”
Next up for Magee and the Rams will be a Saturday semi-final matchup at Caldwell University, which also hosts the final, against No. 2 seed Dominican, a team they’ve already beaten once this year. Even still, Magee regards them as the best team in the conference.
With a chance to reach another NCAA tournament, Magee’s mind is still focused on this season. The legendary coach will continue to host camps and clinics after he is done coaching full-time.
But after the season, the Shot Doctor will start to focus on another shot by returning to a sport he used to coach full time: golf.
“The plan is to work on my golf game when the spring and summer roll around,” Magee said. “I got an 18 handicap, so I’m not very good… it’s a way of competing at my age.”