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Philly coach breaks D-II record

PHILADELPHIA What appeared to be an easy shot at immortality turned surprisingly suspenseful for coach Herb Magee and his Philadelphia University men's basketball team on Thursday night.

PHILADELPHIA What appeared to be an easy shot at immortality turned surprisingly suspenseful for coach Herb Magee and his Philadelphia University men's basketball team on Thursday night.

With Magee needing just one win to reach a milestone and only a winless team standing in the way, a rout appeared imminent.

But visiting Wilmington College did not easily oblige. After trailing Wilmington by as many as seven points late in the first half and still not finishing the deal in regulation, the Rams scored a 65-60 overtime victory, making Magee the winningest coach in Division II history.

The win improved the 65-year-old Magee's career record to 829-323 in his 40th season as head coach. He eclipsed the immortal Clarence "Big House" Gaines of Winston-Salem State for the most wins ever in Division II.

Wilmington did not look like the same team that lost by 78-49 to Philadelphia earlier this season. And the Wildcats sure didn't play like a squad that is now 0-21.

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"I said that you can never take anything for granted," said Magee, whose team is 16-5 overall and in first place with an 11-3 mark in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference. "We were fortunate enough to win the game."

Philadelphia was led by 6-foot-9 senior Christian Burns, who scored 34 points and added 17 rebounds.

"It was great that we could do it at home and do it for Coach," said Burns, who momentarily left the game in overtime with a cramp in his left leg. "He is more than just a coach, he is somebody who will help you with anything you need."

On a night when not much was working for the Rams, who shot 24 for 57 from the field, Burns' dominance was needed.

"We did it and hung in there despite missing a lot of foul shots," said Magee, whose team was 15 of 30 from the line.

The Rams trailed, 23-21, at halftime. They shot just 8 for 25 from the field and missed all four attempts from beyond the arc in the first half.

"I thought the players got caught up in the hype," Magee said. "I thought they tried too hard early."

Leading by 57-56, the Rams finally closed the deal by scoring six unanswered points, capped by Mike Dunn's free throw, making it 63-56 with 30.2 seconds left.

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The game was supposed to be played at Wilmington, but because the Wildcats' gym seats fewer than 400, it was switched to the Rams' sparkling first-year facility, with a capacity of 1,266.

The gym was packed to pay tribute to someone who can still probably beat most NBA players in a game of H-O-R-S-E. Magee's coaching success has included one national championship, three regional crowns, and 21 trips to the NCAA Division II tournament.

Magee is the embodiment of the Philadelphia hoopster, having never left the area while gaining national acclaim. After a career at West Catholic High, Magee came to play at Philadelphia University (then known as Philadelphia Textile) and never left.

Magee scored 2,235 points in college, and his average of 29.1 points in 1961-62 is still the highest in school history. He was selected by the Boston Celtics as the 62d player taken in the 1963 NBA draft, but Magee decided to begin his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater.

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