By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
NEVADA, Mo. —
Jim Phillips had never heard about Missouri Southern.
“At the time I was at a convention in Boston, Mass., and saw an ad for the job,” Phillips said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “That was the first time I knew about the job. I didn’t know a thing about Missouri Southern before I saw the ad.”
Phillips not only responded to the ad, but he also was hired to become the Lions’ women’s basketball coach. Before coming to Missouri Southern, Phillips was men’s basketball coach at Friends University and women’s basketball coach and assistant football coach at Virginia State.
During his seven-year tenure from 1981-88 he compiled a 129-72 record to become the winningest women’s basketball coach in school history, a mark he held until he was passed by current Lions coach Maryann Mitts.
“They were great years,” Phillips said. “I can honestly say there was never a day that I went to work at Missouri Southern that I did not enjoy it. It was a pleasure working there. The people around me, Sallie Beard and Jim Frazier, made it very pleasurable to work.”
Phillips’ first team finished 23-12 — then a single-season school record for victories — and finished fourth in the Central States Intercollegiate Conference. The Lions saved their best for the postseason as they won both the NAIA District 16 and Area IV tournaments and then finished second in the national tournament at Kemper Arena in Kansas City.
“We played Michigan State in a tournament at Central Missouri and lost to them (67-64 in early December),” Phillips said. “We played a great game. I knew then than this team was going to be pretty good.”
The Lions posted three consecutive 20-win seasons — 22-6, 24-5, 25-7 — from 1983-84 through ’85-86. They were second in the CSIC in 1984 and tied for first in the next two seasons.
The Lions went 15-10 and 8-18 in the next two seasons before Phillips left to become head coach at Austin Peay, his alma mater.
“I wouldn’t trade my days at Missouri Southern for anything,” said Phillips, a member of the MSSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
“I went to a Division I school after I left there, and I didn’t have near the support or the funds at the Division I school that I had at Missouri Southern.”