Teresa Phillips was filling in for a suspended coach.
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP SPORTS WRITER
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- Teresa Phillips got her chance because of good timing.
The next woman who wants to be a head coach in men's Division I college basketball will need that and more. She'll have to pay her dues on the ground floor of the men's game, Phillips says.
The 44-year-old Tennessee State athletic director became the first woman to coach a men's Division I team Thursday night when the Tigers played at Austin Peay. Despite playing their best game of the conference season, they lost 71-56.
The Tigers are just 2-21 and 0-12 in the Ohio Valley Conference, but they played so much better than usual that an assistant coach and several players asked her to keep working with the team in practices.
There won't be a sequel to Phillips' historic night. She's going back to her administrative duties, and interim coach Hosea Lewis -- suspended by the conference for one game because of the brawl that broke out between his team and Eastern Kentucky on Monday night -- will go back to his job.
Phillips, who has 19 years of coaching experience as an assistant at Vanderbilt and as head coach at Fisk and Tennessee State, said a woman who wants to be a successful men's head coach needs to learn everything she can as an assistant on a men's team.
"Male head coaches didn't just jump and be head coaches. They were assistant coaches first," Phillips said.
NCAA statistics from 1999-2000, the most recent season available, show that in all three divisions of men's basketball, women held 26 of the 2,012 assistant coaches' jobs, or 1.3 percent. That compared with 545 men out of 1,734 assistants, or 31.4 percent, with women's teams.
In Division I, female coaches did only slightly better, holding 16 of 860 assistant jobs, or 1.9 percent. Among Division I women's basketball positions, 195 of the 777 assistants were men, or just over 25 percent.
Dave Loos, athletic director and men's basketball coach at Austin Peay, had Andrea Miller as an assistant for 2001-2002. But she chose to leave and coach high school volleyball.
"We were willing to give a young lady a shot on the ground floor, and she did well," he said. "I think people that want to do that, they have to be willing to start where a lot of coaches start: That's sweeping floors and pulling the bleachers out, and all the dirty work."
Phillips thinks the biggest challenge for women wanting to coach men will be recruiting high school boys.
"A lot of recruiting is developing those contacts. As of right now, there are no women over on the men's side with contacts with the male high school, JUCO and AAU coaches," she said. "It's going to first take more men head coaches and institutions taking maybe initially what they might perceive as a risk of hiring a female assistant and getting them out in that world."
On Thursday night, the Tigers played with much more energy and tenacity on defense than they did Feb. 4 when they trailed the entire game and lost to Austin Peay by 25 points. This time, they led with 6:18 left before the Governors.
Austin Peay forward Adrian Henning was impressed with their improvement, and he credited Phillips for that. He said playing for a woman could be difficult for some men because of the differences between the sexes.
But Henning said being male doesn't help a lot of bad coaches.
"I'd much rather play for Pat Summitt than some of these guys who are bad coaches," Henning said of the Tennessee coach who recently won her 800th game.
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