Archive for Friday, February 14, 2003

Tigers’ AD breaks gender barrier in loss

Phillips becomes first woman to coach Division One men’s team, but Austin Peay prevails

February 14, 2003

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— Teresa Phillips started the game sitting down, calmly giving out words of encouragement.

By the second half, she couldn't sit still any longer.

The 19-year coaching veteran fell back into her old habits, standing on the sideline, twisting and trying to help her overmatched team with a little body language.

Phillips made history Thursday night by becoming the first woman to coach a men's Division One team, but her presence couldn't stop Tennessee State from losing for the 17th straight time, 71-56 at Austin Peay.

"I almost got a couple of stomps in like my old days, but those knees can't hold up that extra weight," she said. "I knew to sit down a little bit more often."

Afterward, Phillips promptly announced she would not coach the team again. She's returning to her day job as the school's athletic director, and interim coach Hosea Lewis will resume his duties after serving a one-game suspension for a benches-clearing brawl against Eastern Kentucky Monday night.

"I have to hang up my whistle already. I'm officially retired," Phillips said.

She's not going away completely. Assistant coach Chris Graves and several of the players asked her to keep helping at practice following the team's best performance of the conference season.

Tennessee State athletic director Teresa Phillips coaches the men's
basketball team against Austin Peay. Phillips broke the gender
barrier -- becoming the first woman to coach a Division One men's
team -- Thursday in Clarksville, Tenn.

Tennessee State athletic director Teresa Phillips coaches the men's basketball team against Austin Peay. Phillips broke the gender barrier -- becoming the first woman to coach a Division One men's team -- Thursday in Clarksville, Tenn.

"I'll do it in that role, because they are two coaches short. That is the only reason," she said.

Maybe it was her tips during the one-hour bus ride from Nashville, or just the excitement of all the cameras and national media attention, but Tennessee State (2-21 overall, 0-12 Ohio Valley Conference) looked much better than its record indicated. Nine days earlier, the Tigers lost on their home court to Austin Peay by 25 points.

Tennessee State never led in that one, but with Phillips yelling instructions, the Tigers actually led four times in this milestone game. Roshaun Bowens' baseline drive put them up 22-21 with 6:18 left before halftime.

But the Governors scored 17 unanswered points to take a 38-22 halftime lead, denying Phillips the chance for a truly groundbreaking victory.

The only real criticism came as the Tigers took the court for their pregame shootaround. A fan yelled at them, "You play like a woman!" but Phillips wasn't around to hear the taunt. She was in the locker room, letting Graves handle the warmups out on the court.

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