GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - While Gerry Matthews likes to joke that getting to 500 career wins means he's been around a long time, the number reflects something more.
Longevity is part of it, but so is success.
On Tuesday, Matthews became just the 30th coach in NCAA Division III history - and the 12th active coach - to reach the milestone with an 83-60 win over North Carolina Wesleyan at the Stockton Athletic Center.
Old high school friends, family members and former players came out to see Matthews' first attempt at the milestone. He even took phone calls after the game from people congratulating him.
"You don't start out thinking about that," said Matthews, who now has a 500-213 career record. "You're still having fun and eventually the numbers start to add up."
Those in attendance got to see a good showing by Stockton - once the second half started.
The Ospreys came out after halftime with a 31-4 run to ensure Matthews wasn't going to wait long to reach 500. Stockton took a lead when sophomore Rich Suhr hit a 3-pointer to make it 34-31 with 15 minutes, 42 seconds left, and kept going from there.
Matthews is not the type of guy that craves attention. His focus is on basketball.
His plan for a celebration wasn't surprising either: A Diet Coke and maybe some potato chips when he got home in Brielle, Monmouth County.
"I don't usually celebrate," Matthews said. "Maybe I'll go to the White Castle in Toms River. That would be a celebration."
Before last weekend, when Matthews was three wins shy of 500, the players spoke about how they wanted Matthews to get the milestone at home. That meant winning the two games in the Albright Holiday Tournament last Friday and Saturday.
"I knew for a while he was on the verge of 500," said Stockton's lone senior DiAndre Brown, who had 11 points Tuesday. "We really wanted him to get this win. I told everyone we had to win the tournament. It was important to us."
In his 26 seasons, Matthews has had just seven assistant coaches. Bob Hutchings has had two stints with Matthews adding up to 17 years alongside the 70-year-old coach.
These wins mean as much to them as they do to Matthews.
"He talked about it in his own way, saying he's been around a long time or things like that," Hutchings said. "We have been through a lot. This is a very special night for all of us."
Matthews told the team afterward to enjoy the win, but that today's game (8 p.m.) against New Jersey Athletic Conference foe The College of New Jersey was more important.
"Of the four games we had in the last week and a half, that's the important one," Matthews said. "I hope we left something in the tank for that one."
With the impressive run to control the game in the second half, Stockton showed how well the Ospreys have jelled this season.
They started the season 1-4. Many new faces, including transfers and young players, forced Stockton coaches to tinker with the lineup to find the best starting five.
After five games, it seems the coaches have found it. Stockton is 6-1 over the last seven games.
The difference showed when the Ospreys played better defense.
"Our offense comes from our defense," said Suhr, who had a career-high 24 points on 6-for-8 shooting from 3-point range. "We can't give the other team good looks and think it's going to work out. When our defense is better, the offense works smoothly."
Stockton shot 11-for-26 (42 percent) in the first half. But were even better in the second, hitting hit 17-of-30 field goals (57 percent) after the break, and 16-for-19 in the second half from the free-throw line.
"I think we get upset with ourselves at halftime," junior Salman Yusuff (10 points), a Vineland High School graduate, said. "Coach always gives us a good speech and we always go out there and play better."
Contact Susan Lulgjuraj:
North Carolina Wesleyan 31 29-60
Richard Stockton 29 54-83
NCW- Snow 1 0-0 2, Nichols 3 0-0 6, Dougherty 4 0-0 11, Murray 3 1-2 7, Griffith 1 1-2 4, Daniels 1 0-0 2, Martin 0 0-2 0, Heriot 1 0-0 3, Daniel 0 2-2 2, Morrison 5 1-1 13, Yarbrough 5 0-2 10. Totals 24 5-11 60.
RS-McDonough 4 2-4 11, Brown 4 3-4 11, Hunt 0 2-2 2, Yusuff 3 4-5 10, Williams 0 0-2 0, Blamon 2 0-0 5, Moye 2 4-5 9, Suhr 8 2-2 24, McCargo 3 1-2 7, Bolden 2 0-0 4. Totals 28 18-26 83.
3-pointers-Dougherty 3, Morrison 2, Griffith, Heriot NCW; Suhr 6, McDonough, Williams, Moye RS.
Records-Richard Stockton 7-5, North Carolina Wesleyan 6-6.
Gerry Matthews' milestones
First win: Stockton 66, Ramapo 65 (Nov. 23, 1985)
100: Stockton 78, Kean 70 (Feb. 17, 1990)
200: Stockton 59, Kean 50 (Feb. 14, 1996)
300: Stockton 69, Marywood 46 (Nov. 16, 2001)
400: Stockton 80, Rutgers-Camden 50 (Jan. 31, 2007)
500: Stockton 83, N.C. Wesleyan 60 (Jan. 3, 2012)