Phillips resigns as Tulsa coach

Updated: December 26, 2004, 12:21 AM ET
Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. -- John Phillips resigned Saturday as Tulsa's basketball coach after a 2-5 start.

Phillips led Tulsa to the NCAA tournament in his first two seasons, but the Golden Hurricane slipped to 9-20 last year and have lost four of their past five games this season.

"The last couple of months have been very difficult for me, my family and the players," Phillips said in a statement. "Sometimes, change can bring about growth. My hope is that all TU fans will support the players through the remainder of the season and we will all witness tremendous progress."

Assistant coach Alvin Williamson will take over on an interim basis. The school offered Phillips a chance to stay on as assistant athletic director.

"Obviously, this is not the way that I envisioned becoming a head coach," said Williamson, who also played at Tulsa. "Coach Phillips has been very influential in my coaching career. As coaches, we're going to put our entire energy into this basketball team and our next opponent."

Phillips was hired in April 2001, inheriting a strong program built up by former coaches Tubby Smith, Bill Self and Buzz Peterson. Tulsa went to the NCAA tournament six times in eight years before Phillips took over.

With a roster mostly recruited by Self and Peterson, Phillips led the Golden Hurricane to a 27-7 record in his first season. The Golden Hurricane lost to Smith's Kentucky team in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The next year brought a Western Athletic Conference tournament title and another trip to the NCAAs. Tulsa upset fourth-seeded Dayton in the first round before a last-second loss to Wisconsin.

Phillips' run of success ended there. Tulsa finished tied for eighth in the WAC last season, its first 20-loss season in 16 years and the first time the program had missed postseason play entirely since 1998.

The Golden Hurricane opened this season with a loss to Wright State, then were blown out by crosstown rival Oral Roberts. The final straw was a 91-85 home loss Wednesday to Lamar -- a team that hadn't won a road game in more than a year.

Phillips was 61-42 in three-plus seasons at Tulsa.

Williamson, 31, is in his fourth season on the Tulsa coaching staff after previous stints as an assistant at Tulane, Illinois State and Washington State.

"Coach Phillips has helped me progress as a basketball coach, and he has helped these basketball players grow as young men and players," Williamson said. "We will do everything possible to continue instilling the values of hard work, teamwork and unity. We have a great basketball tradition to uphold at Tulsa, and we will work diligently to keep it."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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