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Phelan Ending His 'Magnificent Run'

January 19, 2003|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

If anyone deserves a break from his job, it's Jim Phelan.

He has coached a record 1,340 college basketball games in a career that spans 49 seasons and 10 U.S. presidents.

In a few weeks, he'll coach his last game.

"I knew it had to end sometime," he said.

Phelan, who has 824 victories since becoming coach at Mount St. Mary's of Emmitsburg, Md. in 1954, announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the season.

Although the Mountaineers (5-8) were unable to give Phelan another victory Saturday, losing to Long Island, 82-69, the coach known for his trademark bow ties continues working toward his final goal -- winning the Northeast Conference title.

Phelan, 73, battled prostate cancer in 2000, but he said his decision to retire was not based on health concerns. He said he was tired of year-round recruiting, roads trips and spending too much time away from home.

"What used to be your off-season is no longer your off-season," Phelan said. "If you don't do it, you feel like you're not doing your job. That was the hardest part of the job -- the off-season."

In March, his focus will switch from basketball to honing his golf game.

"I'm looking forward to sleeping in, not worrying about recruiting, not worrying about grades, and spending more time with the grandchildren," he said.

Phelan's 824 victories rank first among active coaches and fourth on the all-time all-division list behind Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876) and Clarence "Big House" Gaines (828). Phelan will probably pass Gaines next month. Georgia State's Lefty Driesell, seventh all-time at 786, retired during the season.

Under Phelan, Mount St. Mary's reached an NCAA tournament 16 times, including five Division II Final Four appearances. He guided the Mountaineers to the 1962 College Division title and into the Division I tournament in 1995 and 1999.

Many of Phelan's former players remain close to the coach, and several attended his news conference Thursday.

"What makes Coach special is what he does for players after they leave," said Jack Sullivan, who played on Phelan's first Mount St. Mary's team. "Even though we can't score points for him anymore, he's always there for you. I still call him for advice."

Phelan's most prominent former player is probably Fred Carter, who was the first African American player at Mount St. Mary's. Carter played in the NBA and now is a television basketball analyst.

"Coach had an impact on me as a player and a person," Carter said. "He's touched and affected hundreds of us."

The feeling has been mutual. "I've been blessed with great players, great people over 49 years," Phelan said. "It's been a magnificent run."

End of the Line

Darnell Archey of Butler missed his first free throw since the 2000-2001 season Saturday, ending his NCAA Division I-record streak at 85.

"Once I missed, it kind of hurt," he said. "I wanted to get to 100."

The miss came with 3:42 left to play in Butler's 64-60 victory over Youngstown State at Indianapolis.

Until then, Archey had made every free throw since Feb. 8, 2001, a span of 56 games.

Archey, a senior guard, made his first 44 free throws this season, his first as a starter.

After the game, at the urging of teammate Joel Cornette, Archey came back on the court and made a ceremonial free throw as players from both teams applauded and the Hinkle Fieldhouse crowd of 7,268 chanted, "Ar-chey, Ar-chey."

"I appreciated that," he said. "I'm an emotional guy and it kind of helped me through that missed shot."

Caught in the Dark

Seton Hall overcame a power failure and an early deficit to defeat Miami, 76-53, at East Rutherford, N.J.

The lighting at Continental Airlines Arena flickered before the game started, and play was momentarily suspended when the lights dimmed shortly after tipoff.

Coaches Perry Clark of Miami and Louis Orr of Seton Hall elected to continue, but officials halted play when the lights went out with 17:27 left in the half. The teams left the floor and play resumed 15 minutes later after crews got emergency generators started.

That was good news for Seton Hall's Andre Barrett, who scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the final 7:44 of the half to rally the Pirates.

Good Start

Rick Apodaca's reputation suffered when the Hofstra player was suspended for 14 games after testing positive for marijuana.

Making his first start of the season, Apodaca scored a career-high 34 points to lead the Pride over Old Dominion, 69-65, at Hempstead, N.Y.

Raising the Roof

Fans at Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum let Olu Babalola know they appreciated his effort after he drew a foul and made two free throws with 5.7 seconds left to give the Tigers a 78-77 victory over Virginia.

Babalola was fouled battling for a rebound. A 68% free-throw shooter, he calmly swished both shots, causing a roar so loud it shook the arena's newly replaced roof.

Associated Press contributed to this report.



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