|Wednesday, January 15
With 824 wins, Phelan fourth on career victory list
EMMITSBURG, Md. -- Mount St. Mary's basketball coach Jim Phelan will retire after this season, following a remarkable 49-year career in which he amassed more than 800 wins.
The school called a press conference for noon Thursday, and Phelan will announce his decision to retire at that time, according to a source close to the team who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
No one has coached more college basketball games (1,339) over more seasons than Phelan, whose 824 career victories is the most among active coaches and fourth on the career list behind Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp (876) and Clarence "Big House" Gaines (828). All but Gaines coached at least part of their careers at the Division I level.
Before beginning his 49th consecutive season at the Mount in November, the 73-year-old Phelan was asked what factors would go into his decision to retire.
"Sometimes, it's just time," Phelan said. "I'm not going for 50 years just for the sake of making 50. That's just a number. It just means I'm terribly old."
The Mountaineers are 5-7, a vast improvement over their 3-24 mark last season. Although The Mount had endured three straight losing seasons before the current one, there was no push for Phelan's dismissal.
Since his arrival at The Mount, Phelan has taken his team to the NCAA Tournament 16 times, including five trips to the Division II national semifinals. He led The Mount to the 1962 College Division title. After the school moved up to Division I in 1988, he guided the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament in 1995 and 1999.
In the summer of 2000, Phelan was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but radiation treatment helped him beat the disease.
When he first took the job at Mount St. Mary's, Phelan was coming off a brief NBA career with the Philadelphia Warriors. At The Mount, he often competed against his players in practice. He stopped doing that years ago, but little else has changed. He still barks at his players, demands their best effort in practice and in games, and he always wears a bow tie on game day.
Phelan probably will be succeeded by Mountaineers associate head coach Milan Brown.