Orange native ‘Bum’ Phillips passes at 90

bum phillips

It was just announced that legendary Coach Bum Phillips passed at his home in Goliad. Details have not been released yet, but it is believed he will be buried in Orange, Texas.

This article ran in The Record the week of his 90th birthday.

Born in Orange, Texas on Sept. 29, 1923 Coach Oail Andrew “Bum” Phillips will turn 90-years old on Sunday. Although several places in Texas lay claim to the Phillips legacy, Orange has the birthright and is proud of it. In 2007 Orange County Commissioner’s proclaimed Sept. 29 as “Bum” Phillips Day.

Phillips is a retired NFL coach and the father of Wade Phillips, the Defensive Coordinator for the Houston Texans. “Bum” Phillips coached at the high school, college and professional levels. He has since retired to his horse ranch in Goliad, Texas.

“East Texans are sticklers for claiming their rightful birthplaces, and I’m no different,” Phillips wrote in his autobiography Bum Phillips: Coach, Cowboy, Christian. “Many people have written I was born in Beaumont. Now, I have nothing against Beaumont, but I was born in Orange, Texas.”

“On my 84th birthday, John Dubose, an Orange County commissioner, proclaimed I was one of Orange County’s brightest stars. Townspeople refer to the day as “Bum Phillips Day.” I’m not sure what they do on that day, but the gesture reminds me of how grateful I am I was born there.”

“Orange was born in 1836 – 87 years before I showed up – and the year Texas won its independence from Mexico.”

Bum Phillips is known for wearing his cowboy hat and cowboy boots and speaking with a Texas drawl. He wore his hat on the sidelines of football games, except when he played in stadiums like the Astrodome and the Superdome. His momma, he would say, taught him that a gentleman doesn’t wear his hat indoors.

The Texas drawl only added to his straight-talking adages. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was known to sportswriters as the wittiest, and one of the most quotable, NFL coaches. Even today, his quotes are standards in the sports world.

“The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline,” is one of his more famous quotes.

Once, after receiving a physical, he told sportswriters, “If I drop dead tomorrow, at least I’ll know I died in good health.”

The Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur has a display on Phillips in the “Sports Legends” section. The museum reports that his nickname came when his little sister tried to say “brother” and the word came out “bumble.” That later developed into “Bum.”

“I don’t mind being called Bum, just as long as you don’t put a you in front of it,” the museum quotes Phillips as saying.

Phillips graduated from high school in Beaumont and went to Lamar Junior College (now university). But soon after the United States entered World War II, he joined the Marine Corps. After the war, he attended Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, where he lettered in football and graduated with a degree in education.

After his graduation, he began coaching high school teams, including stints in Nederland and Port Neches. He then went on to college and professional football coaching.

From 1975 through 1980, he was head coach of the Houston Oilers during the legendary “Luv Ya Blue” winning period with running back Earl Campbell. During that time, the team went to two AFC championship games, only to lose to the Steelers.

Phillips remains as the coach with the best win record for the professional team, which left Houston in the 1990s.

From 1981 through 1985, he was head coach of the New Orleans Saints.

Besides coaching, his business ventures included a sausage and meat company with his name.

After his retirement, someone asked what he was doing. He replied, “Nothing, and I don’t start doing that until noon.”