For a mystery team, Philadelphia Textile had a dandy little reputation going into last week's NCAA small-college championships. It was the team of a thousand laughs, the one that had all the clotheshorses, the one that liked to weave and was dyeing to win. At Textile, they don't earn their sweaters, they make them. Hilarious stuff, that, and coming out of the tournament in Evansville, Ind. nobody was laughing harder than Textile. The little school from Philadelphia sewed up (naturally) its first national title and showed it was strictly a case of Brooks Brothers versus a lot of other stuff off the rack.
Yes, Philadelphia Textile is a college, not a factory. It has a library instead of a loom, tests instead of tailors, students instead of unions. In fact, Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences has one of the prettiest little treelined, coed-coddled campuses you'll find anywhere, right out there in historic old Germantown. Founded 86 years ago, PCT & S is the oldest of the country's seven textile institutions, and it has 1,084 students chasing degrees in chemistry and business administration as well as fabric design and apparel management. "We get tired of questions about the school," says Herb Magee, the bright young coach of Textile's basketball team. "I'd like to clean up the image that one word, Textile, implies, but there's tradition around here, and the alumni don't want anybody fooling around with it."
Considering the jobs they land when they get out, one can hardly blame them. Today, starting salaries of graduates of good old PCT & S are around $9,500 a year, and of those completing graduate work $13,000 or more. Nobody is more aware of this, of course, than Magee, who while setting most of Textile's scoring records in the early '60s also earned a degree in textiles and science. Magee is the only coach in the country who knows as much about fabrics as he does about free throws.
"Hit 'em with a few facts about the school and they quit laughing fast," he says. "Next to the food industry, the textile industry is the largest in the country, and every day the industry has more positions opening up. [Magee is talking louder and faster now.] Where is the industry going to go to fill those positions? To the oldest textile college in the country, that's where."
It is a good pitch, but Magee must be careful who hears it; with only three tuition scholarships at his disposal each year, he cannot begin to try to woo every hot prospect that comes down the pike. Consequently, Magee shoots for the "sleeper," the good player who does not wind up in the Big Five (Villanova, La Salle, Penn, Temple, St. Joseph's) but wants to stay in the Philadelphia area. As a result, usually he gets the boy who has everything but height; in the last eight years, in fact, the team has not had a starter over 6'5".
This suits Magee fine, for here is a defense nut if there ever was one. A long time ago he bought a couple of $1 pamphlets written by Army Coach Bob Knight, who not only preached defense but described in very basic terms how to teach it. "He must have sold a million of those little books," says Magee, who has incorporated many of Knight's drills into his practices. "We play pattern basketball so everyone can touch the ball. When you touch the ball, you get involved—and when you get involved, you don't mind playing defense."
Predictably, there is no star among these champions—just five highly disciplined boys who know when to pass or shoot, when to stop or run. As Magee says, the other team dictates how Textile will play it. In the Mideast Regional, for example, Ashland, to the surprise of nobody, came out with a slowdown game. But in the second half, to the surprise of everybody, the Ohioans discovered that the sneaker, suddenly, was on the other foot. Ahead by seven points, Textile held the ball for 18 minutes and won 45-28, its 25th victory in a row.
There has been no stopping Textile since the third game of the season, when it lost in overtime to Mount St. Mary's. It also lost its first game, and that-was particularly heartbreaking, since the little guys led powerful Villanova by 11 points with 13 minutes to go before losing 57-52. "That's the only time all year they really got shook," says Magee. "I guess they looked at the scoreboard and couldn't believe what they were doing."
Textile's schedule was beyond belief. Since this was the school's first year in the Middle Atlantic Conference, it had to play 24 of its 31 games on the road. Busing everywhere from Quinnipiac to East Stroudsburg State, from Kutztown to Elizabethtown, Textile played in some of the darkest, dingiest gyms imaginable. As its 29-2 record shows, all Textile did was win. "Good press, bad press, big crowds, little crowds, they just went out and did their job," says William H. Gordon, who works for the school. "I'm no expert, but they are rather amazing, don't you think?"
The Textile players think so. After whipping favored American International College on Tuesday 101-53, they came back Wednesday to knock off the University of California at Riverside 79-63. Watching Buffalo State and Tennessee State in the semifinal, Jim McGilvery, Textile's leading scorer with a 19.6 average, said he would rather play Tennessee State in the finals "because they look like a stronger team than Buffalo."
"Why do you want to play them then?"
"Man, don't you know? The game's on TV"
The title game between Tennessee State and Textile was interesting only in that it showed how a balanced, disciplined team can cut up a bigger, stronger opponent that happens to be built around one man—in State's case, Ted (Hound) McLain. Textile never trailed, grabbing the lead on John Pierantozzi's jumper in the first minute and expanding it to 40-27 at the half. With McGilvery, Pierantozzi and Carl Poole battling their bigger, heavier opponents on almost even terms up front—and Guards Mike O'Rourke and Bruce Shively giving State fits outside—Textile won with relative ease 76-65. Textile's five starters went all the way, with nobody scoring more than 19 or less than 12.
Magee was tickled. His club had won the big one in front of a national-television audience, and writers from Philadelphia actually were there. Now maybe he wouldn't have to explain to quite so many people, even Philadelphians, that Textile had walls of brick and ivy instead of cinder block. Since it was also his 70th win against only 13 losses in three years as head coach, Magee was asked about the future. (Last fall he had been under consideration for the La Salle job.) "Sure, I have aspirations. I won't deny that," Magee answered. "But right now, you're looking at one happy fella. This school has been good to me, real good, and I owe it a lot. At the moment, I can't wait to get started on next year."
Flying home after the predictable all-night celebration, one player blinked in the morning sunshine and asked a teammate sitting across the aisle. "Hey," he said. "Did Nixon call last night?"
"Yeah, about half past 12."
"What did he say?"
"Make no mistake about it: Textile is the No. 1 team in the nation."