Legendary Jefferson U head coach Herb Magee selected as 2022 Pat Summitt Award winner

Story Courtesy: NCAA.com, Connor Bran

Herb Magee, head men’s basketball coach at Thomas Jefferson University for 55 years, has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 NCAA President’s Pat Summitt Award. Magee, who plans to retire after this season, is the second-winningest men’s basketball coach in NCAA history.

Established in 2017, the Summitt Award recognizes an individual in the Association’s membership who has demonstrated devotion to the development of student-athletes and has made a positive impact on their lives.

When discussing his selection as the 2022 Summitt Award recipient, Magee recalled meeting Pat Summitt during a coaches clinic in Philadelphia. She watched his presentation on shooting, and he watched her presentation on zone offense and zone defense. 

“As you can imagine, nobody wins that many games without knowing what they’re doing. I was very, very impressed with Pat,” Magee said. “So to receive an honor, an award, named after her is a very high honor for me. I am thrilled to receive this award.”

Magee will be celebrated during the 2022 NCAA Convention. President Mark Emmert will present the award following his State of College Sports address on Thursday, Jan. 20.

“Herb Magee’s passion and enthusiasm for basketball is recognized not only by his 50-plus year coaching career but also in the numerous accolades he’s earned in that time,” Emmert said. “Coach Magee’s enduring legacy of pursuing excellence as a leader for student-athletes on and off the court makes him an excellent Summitt Awardee.”

Before Magee began his 1,130-win coaching career at Jefferson, he was a star student-athlete for one of the university’s predecessors. Magee remains one of the highest regarded players to have ever hit the court for the school then known as Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. From 1959 to 1963, Magee totaled 2,235 points (all before the introduction of the 3-point shot) and earned All-America honors twice. 

After his student-athlete days ended, Magee, a West Philadelphia native, knew he wanted to stay in the game. Magee had received word from the Boston Celtics that tryouts would begin after his graduation. However, he had two broken fingers on his right hand at the time, which he said were “destroyed,” making his shooting game “useless.” 

Although the prospect of professional basketball was gone, Magee still wanted to be part of the game. So he approached his coach, Bucky Harris, to discuss his future plans. 

“Bucky Harris and I sat down and talked. He said, ‘Well, Herb, what do you want to do?’ And I said, ‘You know what, Bucky, I have a job. I’ve interviewed and earned a job with a chemical company in the city, but I don’t want to do that. I’d like to be a coach.'”

Harris then went to bat for Magee. The college was more than happy to create a position for him.

“He told me, ‘You get to be my assistant. You’re also going to teach in the physical education department, and you’re going to coach the cross country and tennis teams,'” Magee recalled. “I said, ‘I’ll do whatever you want me to do.'” 

After four seasons as an assistant, Magee was promoted to head coach in 1967. 

During his tenure, Philadelphia Textile changed its name to Philadelphia University before finally merging with another school and becoming Jefferson in 2017. Magee led the team to the NCAA College Division National Championship in 1970, 13 conference championships and 31 NCAA tournament appearances. His teams reached 25 wins on 12 occasions, including a school-record 30 victories during the 1992-93 campaign. Magee’s teams have boasted a winning record in each of the past 23 seasons. 

“When we won the national championship in my third year as the head coach, nothing will top that as far as what can happen to you as a basketball coach,” Magee said. “I can remember when I was being interviewed at the time and asked afterwards, ‘What do you think, Coach?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that was easy. I’ll probably do that a lot.’ More than 50 years later, I’m still waiting.”

The all-time NCAA Division II wins leader, Magee was inducted into the Jefferson Athletics Hall of Fame as a member of the 1984 inaugural class. He also received the ultimate basketball honor in 2011, with his enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Magee says that relationships he’s developed with players over the years have been the most fulfilling part of his journey in a career marked by accolades.

“I still am in contact with a number of guys. I play golf with them, vacation and meet them someplace for dinner with our wives. I’ve also been invited to any number of christenings and weddings,” Magee said.

Selected annually by the NCAA president, Summitt Award winners receive a $10,000 honorarium to donate to an organization of the honoree’s choice that combats or researches neurological diseases of the brain. Magee intends to direct his honorarium to support Alzheimer’s research in the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience — Jefferson Health.

Previous Pat Summitt Award Recipients

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