New Salt Lake Community College head basketball coach Todd Phillips jokingly recognizes that he has big shoes to fill in taking over a program that has had exactly one head man in the last 20 years.
“I think one of the cardinal rules for coaches in basketball is don’t follow a legend,” Phillips quipped. “You’re supposed to be the guy after the guy that follows a legend,” he said.
All joking aside, Phillips fully realizes the incredible tradition that former coach Norm Parrish established in his 20 years on the Bruin bench. Having been Parrish’s head assistant for the last three seasons, he is eager to continue that success, but is also excited to blaze a trail of his own.
In regards to his first few weeks at the helm, Phillips remarked, “It’s been busy and crazy, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s been good. It’s been really exciting for me.”
As exciting as it has been, Phillips concedes that it hasn’t been a simple transition from assistant to his first college head coaching job.
“There is more to worry about,” he said. “There are more things going on. As an assistant, you go home at night and you have your things that are on your plate, and that’s it. As a head coach, you have an even bigger plate than that to worry about. You don’t just have your little areas. I’m trying to switch from assistant mode to head coach mode. It’s definitely been more stressful. Hopefully I don’t get any gray hair,” the 37-year-old joked.
Whether or not gray hair actually comes, Phillips readily says that while he wants consistency within the program to remain, there will be some changes.
“Obviously I’m going to do things a little different because I’m my own person,” he said. “I think I’ll be animated on the bench. I think I will sweat the small things more than Coach Parrish did. He had a tradition and a legacy of doing things for 20 years and he knew how they’d work out. His experience helped calm him down a little bit. My inexperience will fire me up and motivate me to work harder.”
Perhaps another motivation for Phillips is the knowledge that, as interim head coach, his job is only guaranteed for one season.
“There is some pressure there as an interim, but I also know what the expectations are and I’m excited to meet those,” he said. “We have really high expectations for this year. We are really trying to push the envelope to meet those expectations.”
Present during SLCC’s 2009 national championship run, Phillips counts a second title as a goal he has as a coach for his team.
While winning ball games is incredibly important to Phillips, he knows that his leadership will be judged on more than just the Bruins’ win-loss record.
“The good thing is that I know what our athletic department expects,” he said. “I think I fit into meeting those accomplishments really well. It’s not only to win, but to have high-character kids on the floor, to have kids who will go to class. There’s more than just one aspect to having a good basketball program. I guess I’ve embraced and enjoyed trying to put all of that together.”
As a new chapter in Bruins hoops begins, hope is high that the puzzle that Phillips puts together will be a winning one, and one that doesn’t break any more cardinal rules.