Coach O.A. "Bum" Phillips was born in Orange, Texas, attended high school in Beaumont, played football at Lamar Junior College, and was the head football coach at Nederland and Port Neches-Groves before taking the Houston Oilers to the AFC Championships twice. Bum got his nickname when his little sister's attempts to say "brother" came out "bumble" and later "bum." Of his nickname, Bum has joked, "I don't mind being called Bum, just as long as you don't put a you in front of it." Bum's coaching career began on the high school level. He had positions at Nederland, Port Neches, Amarillo, and Jacksonville. While at Nederland, Phillips took the Bulldogs to the state playoffs in 1955.
His collegiate coaching experience included SMU, Texas A&M, Houston, Texas-El Paso, and Oklahoma State. Phillips then moved on to the NFL, working as defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers before going to the Houston Oilers in 1974. Phillips started with the Oilers as defensive coordinator under then head coach Sid Gillman. The team had just suffered through consecutive 1-13 seasons, but Bum created a defense that turned the team around. They finished the season 7-7 with more victories than the three previous Oiler teams combined. In 1975, Phillips was named head coach and general manager of the Oilers. The team went 10-4, defeating every team on their schedule except Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Bum remarked, "FDR said the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Well, the Steelers are fear itself." The team missed the playoffs that year, but it was clear that Bum meant business. Phillips served as the Oilers' head coach through 1980 and was the winningest coach in franchise history with a 55-35 record.
He became the head coach for the New Orleans Saints in 1981, remaining with the club through 1985. Asked what he is doing in retirement, Bum replies, " Nothin'. And I don't start doing that until noon." Bum remains one of the all-time most popular Houston sports figures and works as a football analyst on radio and television. He and his wife, Helen, have six children. His son Wade served as the Oilers' defensive line coach and has gone on to head coach several NFL teams including the Dallas Cowboys.
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