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O.A. 'Bum' Phillips

Sept. 29, 1923 - Oct. 18, 201 3                Orange, Texas

Coach O.A. "Bum" Phillips was born in Orange, Texas and attended high school in Beaumont. He also played football at Lamar Junior College. Phillips enrolled in the Marines shortly after Pearl Harbor and became an elite Marine Raider. After World War II, he finished his degree at Lamar and then enrolled at Stephen F. Austin, graduating with a degree in education in 1949.

Bum got his nickname from his little sister's attempts to say "brother," which 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."

Phillips started his coaching career at Nederland High School in Texas, taking the team to the state playoffs in 1955. He coached at Port Neches-Groves in 1963 and 1964, where his son Wade was a defensive stand-out and quarterback of the team. He went on to coach college football, serving as an assistant coach at Texas A&M University (for Bear Bryant), the University of Houston (for Bill Yeoman), Southern Methodist University (for Hayden Fry), and Oklahoma State University with Jim Stanley. He was the head coach at the University of Texas at El Paso for one season in 1962.

Phillips was hired as the defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers and then following head coach Sid Gillam to the Houston Oilers in 1974. The team had just suffered through consecutive 1-13 seasons, but Bum created a defense that improved the team to a record of 7-7. 

In 1975, Phillips was named head coach and general manager of the Oilers. His team's first season was 10-4. Under Phillips, the Oilers reached the AFC Championship Game in two consecutive seasons, losing both to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in 1978 and 1979.

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 from 1981 to 1985, retiring after his last season. 

Asked what he is doing in retirement, Bum replied, "Nothin', and I don't start doing that until noon." He remains one of the all-time most popular sports figures ever to have coached in the NFL. His "Bumisms" (clever and folksy sayings) are legendary.  Two of the most often repeated are 1) There's two kinds of coaches, them that's fired and them that's gonna be fired, and 2) (about Bear Bryant) "He can take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n."

His son Wade has followed in his father's footsteps, coaching for a number of NFL teams, including the Dallas Cowboys as head coach, winning a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos, and being named the Associated Press NFL Assistant Coach of the Year. His grandson Wes is also an NFL assistant coach.


In honor of Bum Phillips coaching both Nederland and Port Neches-Groves High Schools, the rivalry game between his two favorite schools awards the Bum Phillips trophy to the winning school each year.  Phillips often showed up at the game. A street that runs through both cities has been renamed "Bum Phillips Way." Bum Phillips is enshrined in the Museum of the Gulf Coast – Sports Legends Hall of Fame, next to his son Wade. The Bum Phillips award is handed out each year to the outstanding head coach in the Southeast Texas area. 

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