Every spring for the past 46 years, James “Skip” Wilson pulled on an Owls uniform, coaching the baseball team he once played for. As a coach for nearly a half-century, he got to do a lot of things he didn’t as a player. He won title games, got ejected from games for arguing and was placed on the injured reserve.
Now, Wilson is calling it quits.
A longtime fixture in Temple’s dugout, Wilson announced his retirement Monday at a press conference at the Liacouras Center. His 1,034 career wins make him the winningest coach in Temple history, regardless of sport.
A national search for Wilson’s replacement is in progress, according to the department of athletics.
Wilson’s retirement wasn’t entirely unexpected after his recent health battles. The 75-year-old coach has had five hip replacements, and missed much of last season due to injuries suffered from a tumble at a practice in March.
In addition, a few instances of player indifference contributed to the decision to retire, Wilson said.
“I’ve had problems with a player or two … and at my age I said to myself, ‘What do I need this for?'” said Wilson, a Philadelphia native. “But there have always been the guys who are special to me.”
Wilson brought the baseball program to new heights in the 1970s, when Temple made two appearances in the College World Series, a postseason tournament reserved for the nation’s top eight teams. In 1972, the Owls finished third nationally, their best finish ever.
Wilson has coached over 100 players to professional careers. The only former Temple player currently in the major leagues is Detroit Tigers outfielder Bobby Higginson.
Ed Wade, general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, is another of Wilson’s most notable former players. Wade was a reserve outfielder for two seasons under Wilson from 1975-76. Wade called Wilson an influential teaching force on and off the diamond.
“Anybody who wore the uniform, he treated them the same, and always with respect,” Wade said. “I wasn’t one of the more talented guys but I learned a lot about the game and about life from him.”
Overall, Wilson had a record of 1,034 wins, 824 losses, and 27 ties. He coached the Owls teams to 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and 10 conference championships. A 1958 Temple graduate, Wilson has been inducted into the Temple Athletics, Pennsylvania State, and American Baseball Coaches’ Association Halls of Fame.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.