After months of interviewing potential candidates, Seymour High School has found its man to head one of their most historic programs.
Tyler Phillips will take over as the Owls’ varsity boys basketball coach, effective immediately.
On Tuesday, the school board voted in Phillips as the new coach and as a physical education teacher.
Phillips has spent his coaching career at three schools: Mitchell, Columbus East and South Spencer.
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A 2003 graduate of Mitchell, he helped out with the Bluejackets’ program in 2008 before taking over as Columbus East’s junior varsity coach in 2010.
Phillips, 31, worked with the Olympians for two years before returning to Mitchell in 2012 as a varsity assistant and JV coach.
In 2014, Mitchell got his first varsity opportunity with South Spencer.
The Rebels went 14-9 in Phillips’ first year and 17-9 this past season. Under Phillips’ direction, the Rebels claimed a sectional title by downing Forest Park before falling to semistate qualifier Providence in regional play.
Seymour hasn’t finished with a record above .500 since the 2006-07 season, but Phillips said he wants to get the Owls back on track.
Phillips sat down with The Tribune to talk about taking on the Seymour program.
Q: How did the job in Seymour get on your radar?
A: “Seymour is a tradition. They do everything the right way. Whenever I played (Seymour) at Columbus East, they played hard. The facilities are second to none. It’s one of those jobs that if it opens up, you hope you get the opportunity to take it.”
Q: What are some of your coaching philosophies?
A: “Everything we do is for the kids. I’ve never used the term ‘my program.’ It’s not mine — it’s the kids’. Every decision we make will be kids-driven. What I’m known for is taking programs to the next level. Us coaches want to give them the chance to be successful. We want them to know we care about them as kids and not just players. We will work hard, do things the right way and put a good product on the floor.”
Q: What is your coaching staff going to look like?
A: “We’re still working on that. It’s to be determined. I’ve reached out to the (current) coaches. My thing is that I’m the new guy coming in, I will give (the current coaches) one year — some people love to work with me and some may not, so I will give that opportunity. I’m not going to come in and clean house. If you’re on staff and wish to continue to be, I will give one year and see where it goes.”
Q: How would you characterize your coaching style?
A: “I would consider myself a facilitator. I’m not a ‘my way or the high way’ coach. For instance, we will set up goals for each of the kids. It’s their program, and I’m a part of it. My goal as a coach is to help them accomplish those goals. We try to make it about the kids as much as we can from every aspect.”
Q: Do you think being a younger coach resonates with the players?
A: I think so. I’m a break-it-down kind of coach. I will go out there with them. I wouldn’t ask them to do anything I couldn’t do myself. I will go out there and do things like conditioning drills with them. I think it plays a big part. I think that’s why we had some success at South Spencer and think it will carry over here.”
Q: Are you looking forward to competing in the Hoosier Hills Conference?
A: “In my opinion, the HHC is one of the top three conferences in the state. I know a lot of the coaches from (the HHC) when I worked at East, and they’re a great group. You have the No. 1 team in the state (New Albany) and one of the best players in the state (Romeo Langford) coming back — how couldn’t you be excited about that? A lot of people ask why, and I say why not. If you want to be the best you have to compete with the best.”
Q: Why should fans be excited about the upcoming season?
A: “These kids are student-athletes and they will be leaders in our community. One thing I require is that the kids volunteer community service. I will tell them, ‘whether you like it our not, you are leaders in your community.’ Whether they realize it, or accept it or not, they’re leaders. Kids will look to them as leaders. we’re going to make it a positive thing. We will instill a program I call “SALT,” which stands for serving and leading together. My coaches will do it too. Each one has to turn in hours. In my experience, when kids are out and helping in the community to make it better, it give them ownership in the program and people support that.”
Q: Was South Spencer a program that had a lot of previous success, or was it a project where you had to start from the ground up?
A: “South Spencer was a place where they kind of went through a coaching carousel for different reasons. For the kids I inherited, it was their third coach in four years. Getting them to understand that it was a process took some time. Once we got established — developing trust on and off the floor and them knowing we cared about them beyond wins and loses — the rest took care of itself. We won 14 games that first year when behind closed doors we were told it would be five or six. Then we won 17 and the sectional. By everyone’s standards down there, we overachieved. We got the community excited about basketball.”
Q: Who are some coaches that you admire, and have worked with, that have help you become the coach you are today?
A: “No. 1 on that list, for the rest of my career, will be Brent Chitty at Columbus East. I consider myself extremely fortunate and lucky to have gotten a chance to coach his JV team for a couple years. He’s a guy who has done it right for years. He is a very upstanding, moral guy. I learned more from coaching two years with him than in 25 years as a player. My high school coach, Gary Sims who now coaches the girls at Edgewood, also taught me a lot. Those two take the bulk of that.”