Orange Native Wade Phillips returns
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
Wade Phillips was a graduate assistant coach for Bill Yeoman at the University of Houston when he received an offer to coach defense at Lutcher Stark High School in his hometown of Orange.
In an anecdote related in a February interview, Phillips said he struggled to decide whether to stay at Houston or enter the high school coaching ranks.
So he asked his dad, Bum Phillips.
“He was pretty much straight to the point,” Wade told the Waco Tribune Herald. “Which one pays you more?”
“The high school job,” Wade told Bum.
“Go there,” Bum said. If you do a good job, they’ll find you.”
Friday, May 5, people can find Wade Phillips signing copies of his new book “Son of Bum: Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Football and Life.”
The current defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams will be at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Booksellers at Parkdale Mall in Beaumont.
Bum Phillips was a well-known high school and college coach who became nationally famous as the head coach of the Houston Oilers in the 1970s.
Wade and his family followed Bum from town to town as his coaching career took him to Nederland, Jacksonville, Amarillo and Port Neches, then the University of Houston.
Like his dad, Wade has had a nomadic coaching career. He stayed at Stark High for three years, then left to work for his dad at Oklahoma State. Three years later, Wade was coaching for his dad with the Houston Oilers.
Wade Phillips will be 70 years old this summer and the job as Rams defensive coordinator will be his 21st job.
Six times he’s been an NFL head coach — in New Orleans, Denver, Buffalo, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.
Though his lifetime head coaching record is 83-67, Wade is best known as perhaps the top defensive coordinator in the NFL. He was the architect of the sack-happy Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos defense in 2016.
Before playing linebacker for the University of Houston, Wade was the starting quarterback at Port Neches-Groves, where he met his wife, Laurie, who was head cheerleader.
But it all started in Orange, the same town that his father O.A. “Bum” Phillips got his start.
“Daddy was a genuine cowboy … His granddaddy was a rancher and that was the life Daddy knew – ranching and football,” Wade says of his dad in an early chapter of his book.
“In 1947, when I was fixing to be born,” Wade said, “Dad was working on the Edgar Brown Ranch in Orange, Texas. The ranch belonged to one of the two richest families in town. The other was the Starks. The Browns and the Starks both had ranches, and they basically owned Orange at the time.”
The younger Phillips goes on to tell how his father came to be caring for a champion quarter horse, who he “borrowed” to enter in a Louisiana stakes race. He used shoe polish to disguise the horse and it won.
“My dad’s share was about $150, just enough to pay the hospital bill when I was born.”
Wade was the only son of Bum and Helen Phillips. He had five younger sisters.
While Bum was busy climbing the coaching ranks from high school to college to the pros, Wade was helping his mother raise his sisters.
As he recounted in the February interview celebrating his induction into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, when Wade was playing for the University of Houston and his dad was coaching with the San Diego Chargers, Wade had to drive his mom to the hospital to deliver his youngest sister.
Then he phoned his dad with the news.
“Well, Dad, you’ve got a girls’ basketball team now.”
Phillips’ new book, which he wrote with longtime Buffalo sports writer Vic Carruci, includes a treasure trove of old family photos, including one that shows a 10-year-old Wade between Bum Phillips and Bear Bryant before a Texas A&M game.
Wade’s family, Laurie and son Wesley and daughter Tracy, are also a big part of the book.