Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
Herb Magee’s name was already imprinted all over the gym at Jefferson University.
A scan around the arena and you’ll see ‘Herb Magee’ up on the banners in honor of his inductions into the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fames.
There it is on the banner honoring his 1,144 career wins (second most in NCAA history behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski), too. Don’t forget Magee’s name on the list of 2,000-point scorers as well — he could play before he could coach.
Every home game since 2006, players stepped onto Herb Magee Court.
Now, the man synonymous with the Philadelphia Textile, Philadelphia University and Jefferson University men’s basketball program has his legacy preserved even further.
Prior to Tuesday’s home opener against Bloomsburg, a crowd of former players, fans, family and others filled into the lobby at Jefferson’s Gallagher Athletic Center where the Rams’ gym was officially named Coach Herb Magee Arena.
“The naming of the arena, that’s special,” Magee said. “You play in Herb Magee Arena and you play on Herb Magee Court. I mean, I don’t know too many places that have that. It’s kind of unprecedented.”
Former Jefferson men's basketball coach Herb Magee, left, had the school's basketball arena named after him prior to the team's home opener against Bloomsburg on Tuesday. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Magee coached his last season at Jefferson in 2021-22 before retiring, concluding his 54 seasons coaching at the school. The man he handed the keys of the program over to, Jimmy Reilly, made his home debut on the Rams’ sidelines on Tuesday night.
After the Rams’ afternoon workout, Magee told the team, ‘This is now going to be called Herb Magee Arena. If you lose one game, don’t ever talk to me.’
During the pre-game ceremony celebrating the arena naming, Magee also said Reilly really needed to get a win, which seemed a little less tongue in cheek.
“He’s not half-joking,” Reilly said.
Reilly and his team completed Magee’s request, going ahead by as many as 20 points in the first and leading by double digits throughout on the way to a 91-77 win over Bloomsburg. Sophomore Erik Timko (Methacton) scored 19 points and added six assists and four steals and junior guard Hakim Byrd (Neumann-Goretti) scored 17 points and chipped in four assists to outpace the Huskies, who were led by junior guard Louie Wild’s (Roman Catholic/Olympus Prep) 25 points.
“Was there any pressure? No,” Reilly said. “My thing is if we bring energy, effort and enthusiasm and we do it for 40 minutes we’re going to be OK. The scoreboard will take care of itself. We haven’t really done it, and we didn’t even do it for 40 minutes tonight, but it was pretty close, which is good.”
Reilly spent the last 15 seasons on Magee’s coaching staff and Magee tabbed him as his successor when he planned his retirement. During those 15 seasons with Reilly, Magee’s teams went 311-123, won five CACC titles and went to nine NCAA Tournaments.
Like Magee, Reilly is a graduate of West Catholic.
Before getting into coaching, Reilly was a two-time captain at Ursinus College and spent two seasons as an assistant for the Bears. He also coached as an assistant at West Catholic and Neumann University.
“One of my former assistants called me and told me, ‘Coach I know we’re looking for an assistant. I think I got a good guy for you,” Magee recalled of how Reilly originally joined his staff. “I said, ‘What’s his name?’ He said, ‘Jim Reilly.’ I said, ‘Well, he’s Irish. That’s one good thing.’ I said, ‘Where did he go to college?’ He said, ‘Ursinus.’ I said, ‘How about high school?’ He said, ‘He went to West Catholic.’ I said, ‘Tell him he’s hired.’ Ever since then, Jimmy has done nothing but everything for the best results he could possibly get for us to win games. I think that’s the key.”
Jefferson first-year men's basketball coach Jimmy Reilly, center, coached at Herb Magee Arena. for the first time on Tuesday against Bloomsburg. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Tuesday night’s win improved Jefferson to 3-2 early in its 2022-23 campaign. With Magee knowing he was soon on his way out, Reilly’s role was enhanced in recent seasons.
There’s still a learning curve taking over for Magee as head coach.
Reilly said after Saturday’s lopsided loss to Winston-Salem State he told his team the gloves were coming off. He’s ready to coach the way he wants to coach rather than how he believed he needed to coach.
“I recruited all these kids,” Reilly said. “I already had the relationship. I was never nervous about being the coach. I was never not comfortable, but the relationship does change. The last couple years I was the bad guy because Coach Magee was going out on his own, but it’s still different now when you are the guy and that’s it.”
“I’m feeling my way, I’m not gonna lie, but it’s never a confidence issue. I’m pretty confident in what we’re doing. I just gotta be more authoritative in what exactly I want to do.”
Reilly wants his teams to play like Villanova. The Wildcats’ brand of basketball is certainly a standard to shoot for.
On offense, he wants to space the floor and move the ball and emphasize ball fakes and jump stops and kicking out for three. On defense, he wants to attack. No more ‘passive’ 2-3 zone. If he does switch things up, it will be with an aggressive 1-3-1.
Magee expects the best from Reilly. Though of course he does, he picked him.
“He has all the qualities a good coach needs,” Magee said. “He knows the game. He can recruit. He can shout. He can teach. He’s a hard worker. He’s got all the good qualities.”
Magee came and greeted Reilly on his way out of the locker room. Reilly said the two talk three or four times per day.”
Reilly will now walk into Coach Herb Magee Arena daily — another reminder of his predecessor's legacy at the school. In his eyes, that doesn’t bring any extra motivation or expectation. He will tell you he already is too hard on himself at times.
Coach Herb Magee Arena is just another honor for the man who will always in some way be the coach of Jefferson men’s basketball.
“It’s not pressure for me because Coach Magee and I have such a strong bond, relationship,” Reilly said. “He’s my father figure. We talk two, three, four times per day. He supports me. I know he does. I still send him the breakdowns of the scout. I’ll send him the breakdown after this game and then we’ll talk afterwards about what did he see.
“I want him to still be a part. It’s always Coach Magee’s team. It’s always going to be Coach Magee’s team. I’m happy to have that. He’s one of the best ever. Who wouldn’t want to keep the name Herb Magee around this program?”
Former Jefferson men's basketball coach Herb Magee, right, talks to his successor Jimmy Reilly after Reilly led his team to a win over Bloomsburg on Tuesday. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)