Jim Phelan Biography
Courtesy: Mount St. Mary's Sports Information Release: 09/18/2006
Jim Phelan Year-by-Year Record
The Phelan File
Career Facts on Jim Phelan
Memorable Games from Jim Phelan's Career
What others have to say about Coach Phelan
Compilation of Phelan Memories from Former Players, etc.
|Courtesy: Mount St.
Jim Phelan in 1954
Mount St. Mary's Men's Basketball Coach
Career Record: 830-524
No one has coached more college basketball games or seasons than Jim Phelan.
No asterisk. No classification of Division I, II or III. He has, hands down, stood on the sidelines as a college basketball head coach for more games and more seasons than anyone else in history. Period. 1,354 games...830 wins...49 seasons coached...Those are the final tallies of a storied career at the Mount.
Talk about your iron man. Even Cal Ripken Jr. would have to doff his cap to coach Phelan. For a coach, the streak may not have been as physically challenging, but over the years there have been challenges.
Like the challenge of cancer just two seasons ago. While the battle raged inside coach Phelan's body he continued to stand on the sidelines one game after another. As a former marine, his collegiate streak may not have begun if he had not withstood the challenges of the Korean War as an active participant.
When the Mountaineers tipped off at North Carolina State in November of 2002, Jim Phelan became the only person to coach 49 years of college basketball, breaking the record of 48 seasons held by Phog Allen (Kansas).
With the retirement of Dean Smith as head coach at the University of North Carolina on October 9, 1997, Jim Phelan assumed the title of Winningest Active Coach in College Basketball. He carried that title until his retirement at the end of the 2002-03 season. But as time goes by, it seems Coach Phelan is constantly receiving honors, surpassing milestones, or setting another record. Recent seasons have been no different, as Phelan continues to move among, and past, a very elite group of people who have coached college basketball.
In the Northeast Conference championship game on March 1, 1999, Phelan became the fourth person to coach 800 college basketball victories, and put his team into its 16th NCAA basketball tournament.
When Jim Phelan, a native of Philadelphia and a 1951 graduate of La Salle, left his hometown in 1954 to become head coach at Mount St. Mary's College, he did so with one thought in mind-he was only staying for a couple of years. Forty-nine years later, Phelan has guided 16 Mount teams to NCAA tournaments, including five trips to the Division II Final Four and the College Division national championship in 1962. Nineteen of his teams have reached the 20-win plateau, while just 10 have suffered losing records. Phelan can boast of two NCAA Division I tournament teams and one National Invitation Tournament bid. In 1967, the Coach also became administrator as he was named Athletics Director. He served dual roles over the next 22 years, helping to lay the groundwork for the Mount's move to Division I in 1988. Once the move was made, however, he resigned as AD to devote his full attention to the basketball program.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Phelan was one of the top players in the city. Among his grade-school teammates, and a player he also would play with later in the Marine Corps, was NBA Hall-of-Famer Paul Arizin. As a player at La Salle, Phelan made the All-Philadelphia team for three straight years. He then went into the Marine Corps and led the Marine Cagers from Quantico to the All-Marine Championship. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the Corps. After his discharge, Phelan played briefly with the Philadelphia Warriors of the National Basketball Association and the Pottstown Packers of the old Eastern League.
After spending one year as an assistant at his alma mater, Phelan made the move to rural Maryland for the anticipated short stay. Sixty-nine wins in his first three years and a third-place finish in the national College Division tournament persuaded the coach to give the Mount a little more of his time. A few years later, he was back in the national tournament, placing fourth in 1961 and then winning the school's first-ever NCAA Championship in 1962. That club went 24-6 and earned Phelan national Coach of the Year honors.
The late sixties brought another string of 20-win campaigns, but it wasn't until 1981 that the team returned to national prominence. The '81 squad, though maybe not as talent-laden as some other Mount teams, recorded a school-record 28-3 mark, losing to Florida Southern in the NCAA Division II Championship game. Again, Phelan earned the national Coach of the Year award. That '81 squad set the stage for what has to be one of the top decades of college basketball at any level. Eight of the 10 teams in the eighties won at least 20 games; the 1985 group returned to the Final Four, going 28-5 and finishing third in the country; and the 1986 and 1987 teams each logged 26 victories. Of course, it was that surge which led to the Mount's 1988 move to Division I.
In 1991, Phelan was one of 15 nominees to pass the screening committee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is now the only college basketball coach ever to reach 800 wins without a plaque in Springfield.
Among the outstanding individuals who played under Phelan are former Philadelphia '76ers head coach Fred Carter '69, who also played in the NBA with the '76ers, Washington Bullets and Milwaukee Bucks; Jack Sullivan '57, the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,672 points; and John O'Reilly '63, a two-time All-America who led the '62 championship team.
Phelan and his wife, Dottie, reside near campus. They are the parents of five grown children: Jim, Lynne, Carol, Larry and Bob. They have nine grandchildren: James, Kate and Mary Robinson; Jack, Conor and Maureen Marsh; and Kelsey, Erin and Molly Phelan.