Remembering Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jim Phelan

The NCAA Basketball entire world was dealt a heartbreaking and devastating blow on Tuesday morning when longtime famous Mount St. Mary’s Basketball head coach Jim Phelan – who presently sits 14th all-time in job wins and 4th in video games coached in all of university basketball – handed away at the age of 92.

A 2008 inductee in the Faculty Basketball Corridor of Fame, Phelan has long served as the pillar of longevity and perseverance, investing his total 49 many years of head coaching on the sidelines at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  An assistant for a calendar year at La Salle, Phelan took a likelihood on a head coaching career at the Mount in 1954, and remained as the Mountaineers’ common for the ensuing 49 several years, generating a legacy that cements him as 1 of the finest coaches in college or university basketball historical past.

Following graduating from La Salle School Large University in 1947, Phelan’s entrance to the collegiate basketball earth came at La Salle University in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  A member of the Explorers from 1948-1951, Phelan produced an effect in his short time on the court, serving as the team’s captain in 1950-51 and spearheading the team’s 22-7 history and eventual NIT berth.

His management was instrumental in creating the Explorers a countrywide power, as his a few seasons observed La Salle knock off a several nationally rated teams, which include Bowling Environmentally friendly, N.C. Condition, and Arizona – and make the Explorers a countrywide rank themselves for 14 weeks, peaking at seventh in late January of 1950.

Phelan’s achievement at La Salle not only aided make La Salle a contender – which ultimately paved to the Explorers’ NCAA Championship in 1954 – but also landed the defensive-minded guard a location in the Hall of Athletes at La Salle in 1964.  For his a few-year occupation, Phelan averaged 9.9 details for each activity, which include double-digit marks in his closing two strategies.

Picked in the eighth round of the 1951 NBA Draft with the 77th select, Phelan’s tenure with the Philadelphia Warriors would have to hold out until finally 1953.  In the course of those people two decades, Phelan as an alternative served in the United States Maritime Force through the Korean War, wherever he also suited up for the Marine Cagers from Quantico and top them to the All-Marine Championship – and acquired himself Most Beneficial Player honors.  Following his discharge, Phelan performed briefly for the Warriors, averaging more than eight minutes a recreation in 1953, as well as the Pottstown Packers of the Japanese League in 1954.

What followed was history, as Phelan remaining his hometown and moved a several several hours west to Emmitsburg – and straight away hit the floor running.  Then a Div. II institution, the Mountaineers skilled results with Phelan at the helm straight away, recording a few straight 20-additionally win seasons from 1954-1957.  The past of these strategies, in 1956-57, cemented Phelan as one particular of the best coaches in the state at the time, as the then-28-year old mentor led the Mountaineers to the NCAA Div. II Ultimate Four, finishing 3rd soon after defeating Cal Condition Los Angeles in the 3rd-spot tilt.

If the 1950s still left any question, then the ’60s certain the Mount’s position as a national powerhouse at the Div. II amount.  Each and every time saw Phelan sign up a successful record, and – immediately after a 4-yr absence from the NCAA Tournament right after 1957’s journey – a return to the Final 4 in 1961 would set up the best period in application record in 1961-62.

Getting into the tourney with a 19-6 mark, the Mountaineers narrowly averted many exits, escaping Albright and Wittenberg by one-digits – as well as Hofstra – just before toppling each Southern Illinois and Sacramento Point out, the two by remaining scores of 58-57, to get the Mount’s very first-ever NCAA Championship.

The title would generate Phelan nationwide Coach of the Yr honors, and established the scene for the Mountaineers to be a force for the coming years – and practically 30 years just after he took the job, Phelan had Mount St. Mary’s back again at the forefront of school basketball in 1980-81.

The Mountaineers logged their ideal history in software heritage at 28-3, edging earlier Cheyney, Elizabeth Town Condition, and Northern Michigan to arrive at the Final Four once again, the place they would dominate Green Bay to advance to the countrywide championship video game.  Even with a narrow loss to Florida Southern, the Mount’s increase back to prominence was only just starting – Phelan would generate nationwide Coach of the Year honors once more, when eight of his 10 teams in the 1980s would document at least 20 wins, which provided a return excursion to the Last Four in 1985.

All of this would established up the Mount’s eventual shift to Div. I in 1988, wherever, even with a modify in level of competition, Phelan would go on to direct the Mountaineers to unparalleled – but unsurprising – achievement.  Just after a handful of aggressive seasons in the Northeast Convention, Phelan’s Mountaineers would at last split by means of to the NCAA Div. I Match in 1995, and once again in 1999, drawing both equally Kentucky and Michigan Condition in the opening rounds.

Just many years right after Phelan’s 16th vacation to the NCAA Event, having said that, the 74-calendar year aged coach – who experienced expended the previous 49 many years on the sidelines in Emmitsburg – made the decision to last but not least convey his legendary vocation to an finish in 2003.

Even with getting criminally omitted from the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, Phelan’s legacy and achievements certainly position him amongst the sport’s all-time finest coaches.  He at this time ranks 14th all-time in career wins at 830 and 4th in games coached at 1,354 – and he was just the fourth-ever to arrive at 800 wins, as nicely as just the next-at any time to coach in at minimum 1,200 vocation video games, getting just trailed Clarence Gaines in 1998.

Among Div. I coaches who are not in the Naismith Hall of Fame, Phelan ranks 3rd in all-time wins, trailing West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Coastal Carolina’s Cliff Ellis.  All of this is with out mentioning Phelan’s determination to other sides of the Mount’s success, such as serving as the head mentor of the baseball crew from 1955 to 1965, as very well as the athletic director from 1967 to 1989.

The Mount’s decision to rename its court to the “Jim Phelan Court”,’s development of the Jim Phelan Countrywide Mentor of the Year Award in 2003, and the NEC naming their Coach of the 12 months award after Phelan is all just a number of of the bodily honors that signified – and continue to emphasize – the coach’s long lasting legacy.

Also, Phelan was well-identified for donning a bowtie on the sidelines – something Phelan picked up from Ken Loeffler, his head coach at La Salle – and some thing university basketball would honor immediately after Phelan’s retirement in 2003 when school coaches all over the country wore bowties to honor him.

But earlier mentioned all, Phelan’s personality and standing as a kindhearted, caring, and loyal guy transcended all else – and his teachings have paved the way for the Mount to go on to be thriving.  Two of his previous pupils – an assistant coach in Milan Brown and participant in Jamion Christian – the two led the Mountaineers to NCAA Tournament berths as head coaches immediately after Phelan’s retirement.

Current Mount St. Mary’s head mentor Dan Engelstad – who just led the program to yet another NCAA Tournament appearance – perfectly summarized the profound impact that Phelan had on him and the system, even after retirement.

With his passing, Phelan leaves at the rear of his wife, Dottie, of 67 yrs, as very well as 4 kids, 10 grandchildren, one particular fantastic-grandchild, and extended loved ones – as nicely as a legacy that has stretched around 7 decades, touched countless numbers of life, and continued to direct Mount St. Mary’s basketball to unexpected, historical heights.

A memorial assistance for Phelan is at the moment scheduled for June 24th at Knott Arena, exactly where the Mountaineers participate in – and in which the Jim Phelan Courtroom is found.