It took Richard Stockton College men's basketball coach Gerry Matthews 26 years to accumulate an outstanding 500 career wins.
His next milestone shouldn't take nearly as long to reach.
Matthews, whose career record is 513-217, is two victories shy of becoming the most successful coach in New Jersey college basketball history. The current leader is former Princeton University coach Pete Carril, whose record was 514-261.
True to his nature, Matthews is focused less on the achievement and more on kicking off his 27th season at Stockton.
"I don't even really think about it. … It's there. It brings some notoriety to the school. Other people may be more excited about than I am."
Matthews has a chance to tie the record today as Stockton opens the season with an 8 p.m. game against Penn State Abington at the Stockton Athletic Center.
For the first time, the Ospreys are hosting a four-team season tipoff tournament. Neumann and Farmingdale State open the tourney at 6 p.m. today. There are two games Saturday.
Senior Darnell McCargo is one of six players returning from last year's squad that went 20-9 and brought Matthews' victory number above 500. The swingman averaged 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds and looks forward to being part of another Matt-hews milestone.
"It's a great honor for him and for us," McCargo said. "We have the opportunity to give him that win."
Matthews said the idea for an opening-weekend tournament had been kicked around Stockton for a few years. The college's acquisition of Seaview Resort enabled them to house traveling teams at the hotel.
A major plus to being hosts? More home games. Countless times, the team has started its season in similar tournaments on the road.
"Every person I've talked to can't wait to get out on the court," said sophomore guard Josh Blamon.
Blamon only saw action in three games during his rookie campaign. He is one of many relatively new faces on the Ospreys.
McCargo is one of two seniors on Stockton's young team. The other, men's soccer standout Sal Pistone, joins the basketball team for the first time.
Only time will tell how the players mesh together in game situations.
"The teams coming out (this weekend) are not easy teams," McCargo said. "It'll be a good test for us to see where we're at."
Stockton also is thin up front and will rely heavily on its backcourt. There may be times when five guards are on the floor.
The New Jersey Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll has Stockton finishing sixth. However, don't call the season a wash just yet.
Stockton never has had a losing season under Matt-hews. His track record gives confidence to Ospreys new and old.
Blamon said the Ospreys trust Matthews and his staff to put their players in the best position to to play aggressive defense and to score no matter their size or where they are on the floor.
"We'll feel each other out. … (The coaches) know exactly where to put us," Blamon said.
Matthews faces wins 514 and 515 with the same attitude he met 500 - at this point, it's inevitable. While he won't get preoccupied thinking about it, Matthews is aware of the weight of his achievements.
Among those 513 wins are six NJAC championships, two final fours, a national championship appearance and 14 20-win seasons.
"It's being done in what's been a doggone good league," Matthews said. "It's not like (the NJAC) has been a terrible league. It's been a good league. We always look at it as the Big East of Division III basketball. It takes something to push through."
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