By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
A former Blue Devil is pitching his tent in Cardinal country.
2008 Etowah High graduate Bryan Phillips (pictured above) recently was named head coach of the Gadsden State Community College women’s basketball team. Phillips replaced Marty Dixon, who resigned in April.
“Coach Phillips has already been an important part of the coaching staff for our women’s basketball team, not only as a recruiter and assistant coach but as a mentor and role model,” said Gadsden State Athletic Director Mike Cancilla. “We are proud that he has accepted the promotion to head coach.”
Phillips, who will work part-time as head coach of the Lady Cardinals, was instrumental in recruiting 12 full-scholarship athletes and one partial-scholarship athlete to the 2019-20 Gadsden State women’s team.
“I think we have one of the best recruiting classes we have had in years,” said Phillips. “I plan to work hard with them to get Gadsden State back on top. We haven’t won a conference championship since the 2004-2005 season, and I want to change that. I encourage anyone who likes basketball to come out to Beck Field House and watch us play this season. We’re going to play fast-paced, up-tempo basketball, and it’s going to be exciting. My ultimate goal is to get scholarship offers to Division I or Division II schools for my players. I do it more for the athletes than I do for conference recognition.”
As a standout basketball player under James Graves at Etowah High School from 2004 to 2008, Phillips earned All-Area honors. He received a number of scholarship opportunities but decided to forgo college.
“I had a decision to make,” said Phillips. “I could go to college or I could marry my high school sweetheart and get a full-time job.”
Phillips followed his heart and married Kayla, who has been his wife for nine years and mother of his sons Cooper, 7, and Ridge, 3.
“It looks like I made the right decision,” he said.
Phillips, who has worked full time as an operations support specialist for the City of Tarrant Electric Department for the past 11 years, got back into the world of basketball in 2012 as an assistant basketball coach for Graves at Etowah High. For the past three years, Phillips was an assistant coach for Dixon at Gadsden State.
“I wanted to be a basketball coach because I love the game and love being a positive role model for student athletes,” said Phillips. “I feel as if God has blessed me and that my main purpose in life is to lead young athletes, not only on the court but in life as well.”
Phillips was appreciative of Cancilla and GSCC President Dr. Martha Lavender providing him the opportunity to prove himself as a head coach.
“I’m thankful they believe in me and see me as the right fit for the job. This means so much to me and my family. I promise to represent Gadsden State in the best way I know how.”
Dixon, who coached the Lady Cardinals from 2015-16 through this past season, believes that Phillips will succeed at the junior college level.
“He’ll have some growing pains, but Bryan will figure that out as he goes. All the girls are coming back expect for one and he recruited most of the girls that are coming in. So he’s set up to be as successful as he can, and I think he’ll do well.”
Although he had an above-.500 winning percentage at Gadsden State, Dixon said that wins and losses were only one part of his coaching mission.
“If a kid graduates and does well when she leaves, that’s a success. We’re providing an opportunity for someone to continue her education when she might not have an opportunity otherwise.”
As a new grandfather, Dixon felt it was time for him to step down and spend more time with his family. Although he enjoyed the coaching, competition and the relationships he built over the past four years, Dixon felt he was somewhat compromised in having enough resources to maintain the program’s viability.
“The amount of fundraising I had to do was a lot for supposedly a part-time position. Our athletic director supported the program as best he could with the conditions he was given, but I felt that I received very little, if any, support from the upper people at the college.
“Every school in the state covers books [in an athletic scholarship] except Gadsden State. That’s not a level playing field when it comes to recruiting. I regret not being able to stay longer, but I just got tired of the off-the-court stuff.”
Graves is confident that his former player and assistant coach has what it takes to thrive at Beck Field House.
“I feel like a proud old papa. Bryan’s one of my babies, and it’s always good to see one of your kids doing positive things, and I honestly think that Bryan will do a great job. I know how hard he works and what kind of person he is, and he’s very deserving of this opportunity. He’ll demand and expect that his girls will play hard, and I think he’ll hit the ground running.
“Bryan was an excellent student, great player and a great kid who was a pleasure to coach. I have a great job, but if all of my kids were like Bryan, it would be even better. Kids like Bryan make it worth your while and help you realize as a coach why you do what you do. I’ll most definitely get over there and support him as often as I can during the season.”
In turn, Phillips was grateful for the mentorship of both Graves and Dixon.
“Coach Dixon opened the door for me at Gadsden State,” he said. “He got me into collegiate sports. And, Coach Graves encouraged me to ‘coach up.’ I really appreciate everything they’ve done for me.”
Phillips currently is working toward a bachelor’s degree in sports management through Columbia Southern University’s online program. He hopes to one day be a full-time coach.
“I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am so far. My family has been very supportive, especially my wife. I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”
This article was suipplemted by gadsdenstate.edu.