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Phillips first woman at helm



Published: Mon, February 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Teresa Phillips became the first woman to coach a Division I basketball team.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Teresa Phillips doesn't consider coaching one men's college basketball game, as a substitute for a suspended coach, to be a significant accomplishment.

That will come when a university hires a woman as its head coach on a permanent basis.

"Whomever gets that opportunity should be the one people speak to as having coached the first men's basketball team as a female. This was an athletics director stepping in, for lack of a better word, for a missing coach. It was nothing more than that," said Tennessee State's athletic director.

Until that day arrives, Phillips holds the distinction as the only woman to coach a men's Division I college basketball team in a game. Her presence didn't help the overmatched Tigers from losing a 17th straight game, 71-56 to Austin Peay on Thursday night.

Suspension

The Tennessee State athletic director filled in after interim coach Hosea Lewis was suspended by the Ohio Valley Conference for a benches-clearing brawl Monday night brawl at Eastern Kentucky.

Speculation that she only wanted the limelight came with it, and she said she doesn't think her sex would have mattered if she were a man. But if the future Pat Summitts and Jody Conradts get their opportunities, "because this night occurred, then it will have been worth the irritation," Phillips said.

The 44-year-old Phillips never showed any sign that she was annoyed or nervous. She didn't have much time for either.

She decided to step in Tuesday and walked onto the court at the Dunn Center for the game about 48 hours later. A handful of television cameras followed her first steps and later shadowed her on the sideline.

Most of the 3,413 fans wore red and cheered for Austin Peay. Phillips' handful of supporters included husband Michael and several of her school's football coaches.

The only criticism came with Phillips nowhere near the court. The Tigers were starting their pre-game shoot-around when a fan yelled at them, "You play like a woman!"

The Tigers (2-21, 0-12) actually played some of their best basketball in several weeks. Unlike their last game with Austin Peay when they never trailed and lost by 25, they led four times, the last at 22-21 with 6:18 left in the first half on a baseline drive by Roshaun Bowens.

Phillips had given the Tigers a few tips, but she couldn't slow them down. She tried as she grew more animated as the game wore on. By the second half, she was standing up repeatedly, twisting and using some body language trying to help.

"I almost burst a vessel up in my head a couple times, but it was fun trying to work with them throughout the 40 minutes of the game," she said.

Lewis will be back as interim coach when the Tigers play Tennessee Tech on Feb. 22. Phillips said immediately after the game that she is going back to her day job in administration.




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