Jim Phelan, a former basketball coach who spent his entire 49-year career at Mount St. Mary's, died on Tuesday night, according to the school. He was 92 years old. The athletic department at Mount St. Mary's said that Phelan died in his sleep at home.
"For 49 seasons, Coach Phelan formed student-athletes who embodied the Mount's mission statement by having a passion for learning, being ethical leaders and serving God and others," Mount St. Mary's University President Timothy Trainor said in a statement. "Everyone who met Jim loved him, especially his student-athletes and his family. He touched the lives of thousands of Mounties and summer basketball camp attendees."
We are deeply saddened to share that legendary @MountHoops coach Jim Phelan passed away peacefully in his sleep at home last night.
You will be greatly missed Coach! pic.twitter.com/rNyZXXpYno— Mount Athletics (@MountAthletics) June 16, 2021
Phelan arrived at Mount St. Mary's in 1954. During his career, he led the Mountaineers men's basketball program to 830 career wins and 16 trips to the NCAA Tournament. In 1962 the Mountaineers won the NCAA College Division Championship and reached the Division II Final Four in 1957, 1961, 1981 and 1985.
In the late 1980s, Mount St. Mary's made the transition to Division I and Phelan made the NCAA Tournament in 1995 and 1999. His win total stands 13th all-time in NCAA men's basketball history and was the winningest active coach from 1997 to 2003 following the retirement of Dean Smith at North Carolina.
"Coach Phelan is Mount St. Mary's basketball," said Dan Engelstad, the current coach of the Mountaineers, per ESPN. "I found out the news after dropping my daughters at school as I was driving to campus. I thought about how fortunate I am to coach at the place that Coach Phelan built and grateful that he built it on family. I get to share his desk and I get to coach in the gym that he changed lives in - what an honor."
In 2008, Phelan was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame. Overall, he was inducted into 13 Hall of Fames, including the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame and the Mount St. Mary's Hall of Fame. "When the players first get here, they seem to regard me as a dinosaur, a fossil," Phelan said when talking about coaching in his later years. "They usually spend the first part of their freshman season relating to the assistant coaches. Then, after a while, they realize that I'm not exactly a senile old grandfather."