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Interview with: Coach Bum Phillips
Interviewed by: Dr. Joseph Pratt
Date: March 27, 2008
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JP: We are here outside of Goliad, Texas, with Coach Bum Phillips. The date is March 27, 2008. We are going to talk some with Coach Phillips about his life in football and his life in and around Houston. I would like to start just by asking you to tell for the tape a little bit about your background, growing up in Orange, what your parents and your grandparents did for a living, what it was like to grow up in that time and place.
BP: You know, I was born in the Depression. 1923. It wasn’t the Depression then but it got to be. About the time I can remember things, it got to be pretty tough. And growing up in Orange at that time, you know, it was tough. It was a little bitty town, had one paved street, that was Green Avenue, went right down the middle of Hornes and went across the river into Louisiana. Everything else was dirt roads. I can remember walking back and forth to school. Everything was dirt. It was a good town though. It had a bunch of good people and I still remember a lot of them and enjoy going back there and visiting them. Both grandparents were born and raised there. So, you know, Orange is what I call my home but my heart is in Houston.
JP: Did your grandparents and your parents, what kind of work did they do?
BP: My grandfather on my dad’s side, Joe Phillips, was a cowboy. Back when they used to have the trail rides, he was on the Chisolm trail. He started in Texas and I don’t know where they ended up. I just know he was on the Chisolm trail. And it really makes me mad because I did not get a chance to talk to him. When I was young, I did not care. And then, I went in the service at 18 and came back at 21 and he had already died. So, I really missed the chance to really find out something that I would like to know about his young life. Anyhow, I did not get a chance to do it and then, was not smart enough to go ask my grandmother about it either. Where were we?
JP: What did your dad do for a living?
BP: My other grandfather, Monroe Faris, was an executor of the Brown estate, E.W. Brown estate in Orange and they had like maybe 3,700 mama cows. So, I grew up there and I grew up liking to ranch and wanting to ranch. At that time, we did not have the money but the Brown estate did and he had all the cows so we went out there every week and worked every weekend and all the time when I was a kid on. That is all I wanted to do was just ranch but it takes money and we did not have any.
JP: What about your dad and your mom?
BP: My dad, like everybody during the Depression, had taken any job he could get. He finally ended up getting a job that I remember in 1935 maybe with the TSC Motor Freight Lines and he drove from Beaumont to Houston twice a day just to make a living. Well, he got $6 for driving one trip so he had to make two a day to make $12. It was just – you had to do it. You do what you’ve got to do to make a living and if it takes 12 hours a day, 14 hours a day – kind of like coaching, you know. But coaches do not have to do it – they choose to do it. He did not choose to but he had to.
JP: Did you ever drive with him to Houston?
BP: Oh, no. That was against the rules, you know. Everything in those days, you had to do by the rules and that was one of the things that said that no passengers . . . they could not pick up anybody, they couldn’t take anybody.
JP: You went to French High School in Beaumont. When did you move to Beaumont?
BP: We moved to Beaumont when I was in the 7th grade. The 8th grade was in high school – 8, 9, 10, 11 was in high school, so we moved over when I was in the 7th grade. I went out for football and played football. You had to be, I think at that time, you had to be under 100 pounds to carry the ball and I was under 100 pounds, so I got to carry the ball. I thought that was great. I had never seen a football game until that one. I played in the first one I saw, I guess. We did not go to things like that. We lived out in the country and, you know, there was no such thing. I guess it was a night game and everything was in the afternoon but we had things to do in the afternoon.
JP: Did you like football from the start?
BP: Yes, I love football. It has been a big part of my life and probably the happiest I have ever been was coaching.
JP: Did you like defense instinctively or did you like to carry the ball?
BP: Not necessarily. I liked both. In those days, you played both ways. There was no such thing as an offensive player or a defensive player. If you weren’t good enough to play both ways, you did not play.
JP: What kind of equipment did you have when you started?
BP: I could fold my helmet up and put it in my pocket, I can tell you. But a lot of games we played without helmets, you know. Usually if you were in the game, you came out – somebody else used your helmet. You swapped helmets with people. They did not fit real good but they would go on your head. And sometimes if you could not find the helmet, you just went on in the game and there were already people out there playing with no helmet. They got by with it.
JP: Did you ever get hurt badly?
BP: I never broke a bone. In fact, I never broke a bone in my life until I was grown. I tell everybody the horse bucked me off. Daddy says I fell off. Damn! That is my story. I am sticking to it. I broke all my ribs.
JP: Oh, when was that?
BP: In the 1970s. I broke them again out here, the other side.
JP: You get out of high school and what happened between high school and going in the Marines at 18?
BP: Well, when I got out of high school, I went to Lamar and went out for the football team. And, of course, living at home, I could drive back and forth. There was no such thing as a scholarship. I just went and signed up and they bought my . . . I guess they paid my books and what it cost for the classes because I did not have to pay anything. In those days, there wasn’t a whole lot of scholarship talk. “You come on out and we will take care of you,” and they did. And I played there until about February of that year and I decided then I was not going to . . . no, let’s start over on that because I went to Lamar . . .
JP: So, the first year at Lamar, you played a full season and went to school a year?
BP: No, I did not. I made the starting line-up, made it all the way through and then in September . . . wait a minute, I am really wrong now. I’ve got to figure out what the hell I did because I know I played all year but I quit school.
JP: So, you made it through Christmas? The first semester?
BP: Well, I played through the season. That is what it was. I played through the season.
JP: What position did you play at Lamar?
BP: I was a fullback but they made me play guard.
JP: Did they have a good fullback?
BP: He wasn’t as good as I would have been, I don’t think but I played on through that year until the season was over, and I had done like everybody else – I wanted to go to work and make some money. I wasn’t making a whole lot of money.
JP: All right. When did you join the Marines?
BP: In September of my 18th year. That was 1941. I would have gone in earlier but my mother would not sign for me until I was 18 and when my 18th birthday was coming up September 29, I told her I was going to go in the service.
JP: So, you were in the Marines before Pearl Harbor?
BP: No, not before Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor was what got me out of Lamar to start with. The war effort. I went to work in the shipyard and stayed with that until September came and then when I did, I quit.
JP: Where did you end up going in the Marines?
BP: I went to the South Pacific. We went to the Guadalcanal the first boat we got off of. We went 29 days on a boat and the first thing I saw was the Guadalcanal. So, I stayed in the Marines. I was 29 months overseas and 5 months other. It was 35 months altogether.
JP: You came out without injury?
BP: I came out without injury.
JP: And then came back, trying to figure out what to do.
BP: Yes. In fact, I came back and thought I would just do like everybody else and go to work at the Magnolia Refinery and work there until you retired. If you were good enough to get a job at the refinery, that was really good. I guess being in the service, I got one. So, they put me to work and I stayed there until February and they came around with something they wanted me to sign. I asked them what it was and they said it was an authorization for the Red Cross to take one-tenth of one percent of a day’s work which was three or four dollars. I said, “I don’t like the Red Cross. I swore I would never give anything to the Red Cross, so I won’t sign it.” Well, to make a long story short, they went to a couple of other people coming by and then finally, I guess the boss, president called me in his big mahogany paneled office and pretty well told me what was going to happen and I told him well, “I’ll tell you what – I don’t want to sign it and I am not going to sign it. So, you have my check ready and I will leave.” And that is what I did. And when I came out of the refinery . . . when you come out of Magnolia Refinery, if you are going to go home, you turn right which would be towards Orange. And I turned left and I swear I don’t know why to this day, but I turned left and I went down that road and as I was driving along, I looked over and they were practicing football and it was Lamar Junior College at that time. They had moved it and they put it out on the highway. If it had been where it used to be, I never would have seen it. But anyhow, I saw the football players and I thought I would just go over there and watch a little. I started watching and the head coach came up and asked me if I played. I said, “Yes, I played right here a year before the war.” And he said, “Well, do you want to try out for a scholarship?” I said, “Sure, I guess so. I don’t have anything else to do. I am broke.” So, I practiced and evidently I pleased him so he gave me a scholarship. And, for years, the one thing that I did not like got me the most important thing that I have liked and that is football. If it would not have been for Lamar Junior College and the Red Cross, I guess I would have still been at the Magnolia Refinery. It would not have been for the Red Cross.
JP: Where did you get your degree finally?
BP: Stephen F. Austin.
JP: You went there for 2 or 3 years?
BP: Yes, and they were tough.
JP: Did you play football there?
BP: Oh, yes. I played both years. For whatever it is worth, I was all conference. I was a pretty good football player.
JP: Is that the Long Star Conference already and that is Lamar’s conference?
BP: Yes. Lamar and Sam Houston and Southwest Texas and East Texas State and I forget who else.
JP: Still a fullback?
BP: No. Guard. They looked at me a little bit. I just thought I could carry the ball. I never did get a chance.
JP: When did you start thinking of football as a career and when did you start taking kind of the coach’s problem seriously, watching defenses, looking at offenses? Is there a time in your life where you remember kind of a light bulb going on and thinking, this is something that I could really do?
BP: I thought when I got out of college, I thought, well, I will go get me a job in the oil field, you know, because you can make money there and make good money and I did not mind working and I was a good worker. So, I thought I was going to do that. But Elbert Packel (sp?), my high school football coach, was the head football coach at Nederland and he called me and asked me before I graduated, he called me and said he had a job opening or was going to put an assistant coach on. Ever since I knew him, he was THE coach, coached everything, and did a heck of a job and coached all the basketball. He coached everything. But in any event, he called me and asked me if I wanted to come down, if I would come down and help him. I thought so much of him, I thought well, I can always quit and go in the oil field but I will come ______ him. I did not think that it would be a career. I just thought it would be something that I might enjoy for a while until I got a better job, I will put it that way. But I did not get a better job.
JP: So, your first job in football coaching is at Nederland High School down the road from Lamar?
BP: And I did not know anything. Believe me. Looking back on it, it is hard to believe but he quit that year at the end of that year and moved to another school which was a better job for him and I applied for the head coaching job and got it.
JP: So, after being in Nederland 1 year or when you first came?
BP: One year. About 3 months, in fact, just as a football season and he quit and left and I ended up getting the job. I don’t know how I made it through.
JP: Why do you think you were so successful that early? I mean, that was big time football then.
BP: I wasn’t so successful early.
JP: What year did you get to Nederland?
BP: In 1950.
JP: O.K., so it took 2, 3 years?
BP: It took us 3 years to get to the playoffs, so the first two . . . well, of course, the first year, I was a B squad coach, is what they called him. B squad coach. We all practiced together. Anyhow, and then the next year, I forget what our record was and it was so bad, I am glad I forgot. They were not real good.
JP: When you did get good, was it because you had learned how to coach or because you just got a bunch of good players at once or both?
BP: Both. Gene McCollum, who was the superintendent at Port Neches at that time, was a great football coach. He was a football coach there then. Later on, he was superintendent. But Gene worked for a school district that had lots of money, Port Neches. Nederland did not have a whole lot of money and did not care that much about football, the superintendent did not, anyhow. So, Gene got a mission from Port Neches to drive to A&M and watch A&M practice or Oklahoma and watch Oklahoma practice. So, I really learned because he had enough money to drive us and paid our expenses.
JP: Well, how did you meet him then?
BP: We did not play each other but he was a coach. Any time you are a coach, you know . . . whether you are 2 miles away from . . . you are trying to learn everything you can so you automatically go visit the head coach at Port Arthur or go visit Gene. And, of course, when I met Gene, well, he was so good and knew so much about it . . . even though we did not run the same offense or the same defense, you learned how to coach and what is important which is handling people. I don’t care how good a player is – if you don’t handle him . . . when I say “handle him,” it sounds like I am bragging but I am not. But if you cannot get those people to do as good as they can and a little bit more, then you are not going to win. And getting kids to come out for football and liking football and staying out for football. It does not do you a whole lot of good to get a guy to come out and then you run him off because you overwork him or you underwork him or you over-discipline him. And Gene McCollum was an expert. Believe me, Gene was . . . until I met Barry Brown, Gene was the smartest guy at handling people and he proved it later on with superintendent until he retired the rest of his life.
JP: My memory of that period is a memory of a 7 or 8-year-old little boy who was very excited about football and all those playoff games. Was that really kind of a golden age of football in that era? It sure seemed a lot of excitement.
BP: Yes, you know, you used to, when I was playing, you could only play in the class we were in which was 2A - you could only play to region and then you had to stop. Well, we won the region ________ but you had to stop. There was no state playoff. Well then, after the war, well, I guess they moved up a notch or something but when I got to Nederland __________.
JP: We were talking about the excitement of Mid County, Jefferson County football then and Nederland and Port Neches and Port Arthur and all these teams suddenly playing.
BP: I will tell you what: the people in Mid County were absolutely the best football fans that I have ever been around. When I got to Houston to the Oilers, there was nothing like Mid County football. They live and breathe it. I mean, those people working in those refineries live for Friday night and they will not miss a football . . . I know people that have had season tickets like 45 years. Same place. Same ticket. Every year.
JP: Did that have a down side if you started to lose? People cared about it a lot. You never lost at Nederland very much.
BP: Not at Nederland, we didn’t. Well, we got ________ in the state finals and went to the quarter finals 4 years in a row. Everybody liked it and I liked it more than they did.
JP: You get a whole town showing up on Friday night, there is a lot of excitement. How old is Wade by then? He is 7 or 8 years old, 9 maybe. He was probably coming of age in that little period.
BP: Yes. The first year he went to school, he was sick, and we lived about 8 or 9 blocks away from the elementary school, and Leon Fuller who, believe me, is one of my favorite people of all time, he was a coach for Wade at Denver and he was a coach for Darrell Royal at Texas and he coached in high school, coached in college several places – anyhow, he was just a kid then. He was like a sophomore or maybe junior year. Well, I got him to _______. I knew what was going to happen. He did not want to go to school and he had never been to school, so I took him to school the first day or at least my wife at that time took him to school. He beat her back to the house. She just saw him go in the door and he went right out the other one and beat her back to the house. I told Leon, “You take him to school and you stay there and make sure he stays in that room.” So, Leon Fuller took him to school and made sure he stayed in class. Of course, once he got settled and, I guess, said hello or something, well, he got over it.
JP: So, your strongest memories of that period are about high school coaching and about your own coaching?
BP: Yes. We had some great friends and great football teams in that area. Port Arthur was real good at that time, Port Neches was real good at that time. Beaumont was not real good at that time. Nederland was.
JP: Coach Phillips, one thing that we all look back at, living in this area, is the segregation for so long. Did you go watch Lincoln High and ___________?
BP: I used to go and watch Horns. My favorite was Orange football team. They were segregated. I am trying to think of the name. I will think of it in a minute. It is hell to get old, you know it? You forget things you don’t want to forget. But I used to watch them and I was watching them when . . . great big guy, 6’6”, played for the Houston Oilers and Kansas City Chiefs. He is from Orange. I mean, big guy.
JP: Yes, I see him in my mind. Not Webster but somebody like that.
BP: Yes, Bubba Smith played for Beaumont.
JP: Beaumont. The Farr brothers.
BP: Oh, the same coach that was at Orange, he later moved to Beaumont and they integrated there and he played for him there _________.
JP: Did the black and white coaches trade notes at all?
BP: Oh, yes. We were still segregated at that time but football does not know color, you know? Coaches do not care what color you are.
JP: Would the teams ever in the 1950s have scrimmaged?
BP: No, we never did but I would have liked to. I mean, they had some outstanding athletes. Who is that little kid that played from Port Arthur? He played pro ball forever.
JP: Little Joe Washington.
BP: Yes, Little Joe Washington. His dad was the coach in Port Arthur and I have spent, I mean hours talking football with him. He would come to our ________ or I would go to his. You know, the same thing – go to James or go to Port Arthur to Buckshot Underwood’s or go by Joes. Any time you had some time, you wanted to talk to somebody about football.
JP: Well, that area had players going to the Big Ten, all that era and then into pro ball that we never saw play.
BP: Yes. Bubba Smith and ________.
JP: The Farrs.
BP: _______. There were a bunch more of them I cannot remember offhand but they were good football people. Little Joe was really good to talk to. I mean, I enjoyed him and I got as much out of him as he got out of me, too.
JP: So, you stayed at Nederland 5 years, did you say, or 6?
BP: From 1950 to 1956.
JP: And in that period, are you becoming a good coach, do you think? You are learning about coaching?
BP: Well, yes. By that time, I think I was a good coach. It was because somebody else helped me be a coach. I learned how to coach and what to coach and how to handle people and how not to handle people. And I don’t say I didn’t make some mistakes because I did, but you learn from your mistakes if you are smart.
JP: All right. You must have been pretty smart to get the attention of Bear Bryant. How did that happen?
BP: It is a long story. Gene McCollum never believed in working on Thursday. In the first few years I coached though, we practiced on Thursday. We practiced every day until game day. But Gene was so successful at doing it his way that I found after 3 or 4 years, figured out that that was probably a better way than what I was doing so we did not practice on Thursday. And every Thursday, I would drive to A&M and watch A&M practice. And I got to know Coach Brown. He was interested in any high school coach because high school coaches are where you get the players. Unfortunately, we did not have any good enough to go to A&M but I got to know him real well and when Jim Owens got the Washington job, well, he called me and asked me to come up and assist him which I was tickled to death to do. That was the second phase of my learning experience really because he was above all the rest of the people I had ever talked football to.
JP: You were an assistant at A&M . . .
BP: One year.
JP: What responsibilities did you have?
BP: Well, I don’t know. I’d done a little of everything. The first practice, you know, when I went up there, you had to go recruiting so I hit the road and we did not come back until spring training was ready to start, you know, really. And we would have some meetings but not many. But anyhow, getting ready for spring training, it was the first meet and he said, “Bum,” . . . everybody called me Bum, I don’t know why. It wasn’t a description, it was a nickname. He said, “Bum, you take the quarterbacks and go out and work on the option.” That is it. That was what I was going to do first. He had a schedule for me to do during the practice but first he wanted me to do that. So, I went out there early, got out early and there wasn’t nobody out there but him. He was walking around. He always wore a pair of khaki pants and he was walking around, you know, looking up in there. And I looked in there, there was no football, there was nothing out there to practice with. And, of course, I had just been head coach for 6 straight years and I always planned my practices, had managers that had everything out. And I walk over to him and I say, “Coach, do you reckon those managers are going to get those footballs out here on time?” He looked down at me and he said, “I’ll tell you one thing – I ain’t gonna go get them.” Right then, I figured out the difference in head coaching and assistant coaching. I went and got the balls, made sure we had footballs on the field. And that is the say he left it. He left it up to each coach, whatever they needed, to make sure they had it on the field. So, I learned how.
JP: Was that A&M’s really good year or had that been the year before?
BP: No, it was a good year. We went to the Gator Bowl. A really good football . . . it was _________ last year. The year before was a good year but Jack Pardee left and, you know, for what it is worth, we had a big argument – not argument – we had discussion about I wanted to move John David Crow to fullback and move Rodney Osborne to left half back, and we had Lloyd Taylor at the right half back. That way, he could run towards the right or he could run into the left. I thought it made really good sense. And we had a kid named Jack Milstead that was a great, I thought, sophomore quarterback. He could throw the football. Rodney, bless his heart, was good but he could not pass. He was great for running quarterback but he was not of a passer. Anyhow, I had everybody convinced and we are in a staff meeting and everybody had done O.K. . . . Elmer Smith was the last one to talk to me. I asked Elmer, I said, “What do you think?” He thought about it a little bit and he said, “Coach, the only thing I know is we won the Southwest Conference last year with the same 3 people. Rodney was the quarterback, Taylor was the half back and Crow was the other half back,” and he said, “We won the Conference. If it was good enough to win the” . . . and I lost it. I lost the doggone . . . if we would have made the change, I guarantee we would have won . . . we would have been undefeated. We just could not throw the ball.
JP: Was there a whole lot of difference between coaching in college and coaching in high school? You said it was a different level of learning. Was that because of Coach Bryan or because of the level of football?
BP: More Bryan, about how to handle assistant coaches and how to pick people and how to . . . Bryan was not a real X’s and O’s guy. He would get him some good people that could do the X’s and O’s and do all that. He was just the best at handling people, handling the team, the team attitude, the team work ethic. I mean, he had a way of talking to them before practice started that made them want to kill each other in practice. I mean, he was a whole another level of handling people. Gene McCollum was good, you know, he had to be good, and I respected him for that but Bryan was just a step above.
JP: In that era, are you starting to go to Houston regularly to recruit?
BP: No. We went to my area -- Port Neches, Port Arthur, that area, southeast Texas, all up east Texas. I did not go to Houston. That was Willie Zapalac’s area. Everybody had their area. We got some good players.
JP: So, you lasted a year and then . . .
BP: I didn’t last a year, Bryan lasted a year.
JP: All the coaches lasted a year!
BP: No, Coach Bryan went to Alabama and I did not hear my mama calling me so . . . I did not really want to go to Alabama. I was 34 years old and I enjoyed head coaching. I really, really enjoyed head coaching. Even though working for Bryan was a real pleasure and if he would have stayed there, I would have probably stayed as an assistant but when he left, there was nothing, so I went back to high school. I will tell you what he did do though: he told me, he said, “Now, Bum,” he said, “Don’t just go out and take a job. Make sure that the job you take that you can win because if you don’t win, I don’t care how many you won before, if you don’t win, they are going to forget the ones you did not win. They are going to forget all of the ones that you won and only think about the ones that you are losing now.” And he said, “I’ll tell you what I am going to do,” and he did this – he said, “I will send you a check, a monthly check just like you are getting here at A&M,” even though I was no longer on their payroll, he said, “I’ll send you a monthly check every month and if it takes a year, don’t make the mistake of taking a job just to have a job.” So, I really listened to him. I went right straight to east Texas and went to work at Jacksonville and they had not won a game in 3 years! I wanted to coach and I figured, I don’t care whether they won or lost – I can make them win.
JP: Make them win, like you did in Nederland.
JP: So, Jacksonville, then Amarillo, then _________ and then you come back to Mid County for 2 years at Port Neches. That era – I think an interesting question for me in my old age now – what was it like coaching your own son?
BP: I coached him just like I coached everybody else. I told him to start with, you are going to have to be better at what you are doing than anybody else. Not just as good as, you’ve got to be better, so you’ve got to train to get better and be better. He never expected anything. In fact, bless his heart, when we moved to Jacksonville and I cut out the junior high program . . . he didn’t get to play in his 7th or 8th grade years. And then, the next year, we moved to what was going to be his 9th grade year – we moved to El Paso. We stayed in Amarillo 3 years and he did not get to play there. And then, we moved to El Paso; 9th grade is in high school – he was ineligible so he did not get to play there. Then, we moved to Port Neches 1 year later, he is a junior – he still did not get to play because of Texas’ stupid eligibility rules. So, he did not get to play . . . I only had him 1 year.
JP: All that time?
JP: What do you think Wade’s best talents were as a football player?
BP: Best talents?
JP: Yes, where would he make his mark in football?
BP: Probably defensively. He started every game for University of Houston for 3 years.
JP: As linebacker?
BP: Linebacker, and started every game as captain all 3 years. He was a good player. He was a smart player. He knew what was going to happen, not what had happened. He was smart enough to figure out something when they would come back . . . they would come back to that same play that ________ later in the same situation. He has been around football now all his life, ever since he was a kid. He used to come to our staff meetings in Nederland and in Jacksonville and everywhere else we went. If he did not get to play, he learned more before he got to play than he did when he played.
JP: So, he was already thinking like a coach?
BP: Oh, yes, and that is what he always wanted to do, from the time he was . . .
JP: Oh, really?
BP: Yes. I didn’t not even dream I would coach. I thought I would do something honest!
JP: And I want to get through to Houston but in that high school football era, from Nederland to Port Neches grows, what kind of salary do you get as a football coach? A little more than teachers?
BP: Yes, a little more. Not a whole lot. I went to Nederland – the first year I was there, I got $2,750, and I wanted $2,800 but they did not . . .
JP: So, that is probably about what a refinery maker made if you would have stayed at Magnolia?
BP: Oh, gosh no.
JP: Not quite as much?
BP: Well, you would work 12 months a year at the refinery. Teaching, you don’t work but 9 months and you do not have to go to the refinery in the summertime.
JP: Yes. Did you work in the summers?
BP: Yes. I worked at different places. I roughnecked some – just whatever you can find.
JP: So, you are getting in the state playoffs and then stopping and going to roughneck?
BP: Yes, well, that doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.
JP: It doesn’t pay your bills!
JP: Well, the 2 years at Port Neches grows and a decision to move back to college. How did that happen?
BP: Well, really, when I moved to Port Neches, I thought I was going to retire because Gene and I talked about it. I was at El Paso and we had a 5-4 team with 9 sophomores and 1 junior and 1 freshman quarterback. So, we had a pretty good team and were 5-4 in that tough league.
JP: In a place where you could have succeeded and stayed and maybe become a principal, maybe an administrator higher than that and you still want to be a football coach?
BP: I never did want to quit coaching football but really when Gene talked to me about it, it made sense, you know. I think at that time, I had been 13 years in high school and 4 in college and I was getting on up there in age so it made sense to . . . he said, “You can come down here and coach as long as you want to and when you are tired of coaching, I will put you in administration. You can really enjoy yourself.” And so, I did – I went there just to do that. I thought I was going to retire. And I got a call from Bill Yeoman at the University of Houston. I had no idea that . . . because in the first place, I did not like working for other people, so I had no idea that I would go over there but I went over there and he took me out to the Dome and they were just finishing it and they had like 90% of it done. And we walked up this ramp to get up there and then we came out on the mezzanine floor and all those different colored seats – do you remember how . . . and there were just seats everywhere you looked in that big old Dome over it. It floored me. I said, man, if you can’t recruit here . . . and recruiting is the name of the game in college . . . if you can’t recruit here, you can’t recruit – you ought not to be in football, because this is the ideal place. And it did – it really helped the University of Houston sell their program, that, and, of course, Bill Yeoman. Bill did not get near the credit that he deserved. He actually made up the _______ offense. He is the first one to ever use it. He had to be . . . he was the one that started it. And then, of course, years later, everybody knew it, but they had to start off with him. He is the one that invented it. And he was a great guy to work for.
JP: So, that would have been 1966 when you started U of H? 1965? Football season.
BP: 1965 and 1966.
JP: So, you now have the reality that you are going to live in Houston? What was your impression of the big city when you got there?
BP: I really had never paid a whole lot of attention to the city until that time. You know, to me, if you liked the football and the school, well, the heck with the city, and it has been that way all my life. But when I got over, it did not dawn on me at that time, it did not really dawn on me until the Oilers got good enough. You know, in the first year, we were 10-4, and that was unheard of, to beat people like Washington and all that. And that is when I found out about Houston – what kind of people were in Houston. They were like a grown-up Port Neches/Nederland.
JP: Yes, a lot of them were from Port Neches/Nederland.
BP: Oh, yes, but I mean, it was just like a big city exactly like Port Neches and Nederland. They were like a football wife, they were like a small town.
JP: Let’s talk about that. We can come back to U of H later if we have time. You go from U of H and you end up at San Diego with Sid Gilman? By then, you are known as a defensive specialist, am I right about that? People see you as that? Gilman is known as an offensive specialist? Am I remembering all that correctly?
JP: And so, you are coaching pro football. Is that a giant difference from what you had been doing?
BP: Not a whole lot, just bigger boys. And they start off . . . but fundamentals are still important in professional football. That is where people are wrong. You don’t just hire a good guy and let him go play football. There are ways to improve people. And if you are a good coach and you study it, you can improve each guy. And all you’ve got to do is . . . that is your obligation as a coach – make each guy a little bit better. So, that is what I had to do in pro ball. That is what I tried to do, just like high school.
JP: So, did Bill Yeoman and Sid Gilman have a pretty big influence on you?
BP: Bill Yeoman really had an influence on me, to this day. He and A.J., his wife, are two of the most favorite people. I forget who sang it but my favorite memory of all . . .
JP: Willie Nelson. So, you had good years at U of H but only 2? Am I remembering that right?
JP: And Wade and his good friend, Mike Simpson, from Port Neches were with you?
BP: He was a freshman the first year I was over there. Mike Simpson was a freshman.
JP: Who later played for the 49-ers.
BP: Yes, and played with him in high school. Anyhow . . . what else?
JP: Why did you decide to leave U of H?
BP: I got a call from Sid Gilman and he said . . . I never will forget the conversation. He said, “Bum, this is Sid Gilman. San Diego Chargers.” I did not know who Sid Gilman was! But he said San Diego Chargers. I knew who the pro team was. I said, “Yes, sir?” And he said, “I am looking for a line coach, a defensive line coach.” He said, “I would like you to come out and interview for the job.” I said, “O.K.” I flew out there. I’ll tell you about not knowing who he was. I flew out to San Diego, got off the plane and I did not know who to look for. So, I get off the plane and I am looking and everybody is walking out and then all of a sudden, there aren’t but about 3 people left and 1 of them has a little old bowtie on. I had a cowboy hat on and he finally looks into the side of the ___________ and e says, “Are you Bum Phillips?” I said, “Yes, sir, you must be Sid Gilman?” He said, “That’s right.” I did not even know who he was. Went out there, got the job right then.
JP: That is a big move for a boy from Orange, Texas, isn’t it?
BP: You’d better believe it, yes.
JP: And how had he heard of you? Did you ever find that out?
BP: Oh, yes. Three people. He asked Darryl Roth (sp), Mayor Brown and Frank ________. Those were the 3 people in college that he called to get a recommendation and all 3 of them recommended _______ so I had the job over the phone really.
JP: Wow! How long did you stay in San Diego?
BP: Five years.
JP: Five years? Did Coach Gilman have a lot of influence on your thinking about coaching or were you already pretty much fully formed by then?
BP: Well, defensively, I was. It was fun to watch their offense because Lance Alworth was one of the guys, John ________. They had some good offensive players, too. I don’t know – out there is where we put the first 3-4 in. We started 3-4 defense out there. We did not have any defensive linemen. The fourth year I was out there, we did not have enough defensive linemen to play 4 down people. So, I just went back and started working up a 3-4 which did our personnel good and started playing it. And, of course, Sid, he didn’t think we could play it. He thought the people would just run the ball on you. I told him, well, that is the reason why Oklahoma uses it. They can’t run the ball on the 3-4. They might think they can but they can’t. But the value that was gotten out of it was even greater because in pro ball, everybody had the same pass protection rules. Linemen on linemen, backs on the linebackers, and the center on the middle linebacker. That was everybody’s rule. Well, we had 3 linemen and 2 outside linebackers and we learned which way they were going to block, which backs. And we could choose which linebacker we wanted to rush to get just more rushers. So, I would give us a linebacker. Nowadays, everybody has done turning their line towards the most dangerous linebacker and they can get big men on big men and even your good linebacker. But in those days, it did not and we hurt them bad with it until we got ready to play the season and he came in and he said, “I want to go back to the 4-3.” I said, “Coach, we can’t play the 4-3.” He said, “That is what I want to do.” So, we put the 4-3 in and Kansas City beat us 45-7. We could not stop them with a shotgun. And we got far that year.
JP: Was that the AFN or was that already the NFC?
BP: No, it was NFC. When I went out there, the League merged in 1967 which is the year I went out there. That was part of the big picture.
JP: That is when the Oilers were still playing at Rice Stadium and you would come in and play at Rice Stadium?
JP: What was that like? That stadium is awfully big.
BP: Oh, they had pretty good crowds. What do you mean what was it like?
JP: Well, 70,000 seats. I went to some of those games because they let Rice students in free at halftime. You had Ernie Ladd and Lance Alworth.
BP: Ernie Ladd was the guy I was trying to think of. He was playing high school football at Orange.
JP: Oh, I did not realize that.
BP: And the first game I saw him play, they split him out by the sideline about 2 years and they put a back out there and they just raised up and threw him the ball. He did not run forward with it because everybody would catch him, you know, but heck, he made a first down or 15, 20 years. And then, they put 2 out there and he caught it anyhow. He could reach over their heads, you know. He was 6’9” and had long arms. They just kept throwing him the ball. It went all the way down the field, until they finally got down near the goal line, they put 5 guys out there on him and then ran the ball left. They were smart enough to utilize their personnel.
JP: So, you had a disastrous season that ends up you getting fired but Sid Gilman remembers you and when he gets to Houston, he calls you back?
BP: Yes, I was at Oklahoma State then.
JP: So, you have gone other places but Sid Gilman remembered . . .
BP: When Sid left, I could have gone to Chicago, I could have gone to Detroit and put in for a job, but I did not want to live in Chicago or Detroit – nothing against them but that just was not . . . so, I went back and went to work for Hayden Fry (sp?) at SMU which was a great move. A really good guy. We had a 7-3 record and led the Conference in defense, were doing real good, but they fired him.
JP: Well, he was a great coach, too, wasn’t he?
BP: Yes, and they had no reason in the world to fire Hayden Fry. Anyhow, they fired him. So, when they fired the head coach, they fired all the rest of the people, too, and they did and I went to Oklahoma State with Jim Stanley who played for us at A&M, and then coached for me at Amarillo for 2 years and at ________ for 1. And he got that head job as his first head job and I did not have a job, so I said I will just go up to Oklahoma State. And then, Sid called and I went down to Houston.
JP: Were you excited about coming back to the Oilers, coming to Houston?
BP: Yes. When I was at the University of Houston, I knew _____________. Anyhow, at the University of Houston, I would go over and visit the Oilers coaches. That is why I learned something about professional football and the professional coverages and stuff like that. But like everything else – I have always – if I don’t know something, I am going to find out. I am going to go somewhere and find out. And it is easy to do if you’ve just got enough gumption to go ask, you know. You can find a lot of people that will help you. No questions asked.
JP: What kind of team did you find when you came back to Houston?
BP: The first year I was there, you know, I was defensive coordinator. And Gil Down (sp?) may have been . . . they were 1-13 two years in a row. So, you’ve got to know that we did not have a whole lot of . . . and Sid is a good football coach. A great football coach. But even the great football coaches, we were lucky that year to be 7 and 7.
JP: But were the crowds coming out at all or was the Dome half full?
BP: No, they did not really start coming until the 10-4 season. But the next year, we were 5-9. The next year, we were 8-8, and then 11-5 in the playoffs all 3 years. They really got big. I mean, the crowd in the Astrodome when we came back from Pittsburgh, we got beat. That thing won’t hold 53,000, 54,000, and they had an estimated 80,000. Now, 20,000 of them did not get in and all the rest of them are sitting in the aisles and on the steps where you walked and that is against the rules for the fire department. But they could not get them out. Once they got in there, they could not get them out.
JP: What did that feel like after coaching all your life – to get that close and have that kind of reaction?
BP: Well, you know, it did good to get there, I guess. Do the best you can do.
JP: Because they had done that the year before. It had been the same kind of big crowd.
BP: _________ they did it 2 years in a row. The first year, they had way overflow crowd. The next year, the year I was talking about, there was an estimated 80,000, and there were 20,000 that could not get in.
JP: When you look back at that, how do you compare that team to the Pittsburg teams of that era?
BP: We were not as good as they were.
JP: Do you think you were the second best in the League?
BP: There is no doubt about that. I mean, Pittsburg was better than anybody. Pittsburg probably had the best team that has ever been on the football field. There is no “probably” to it – they did have. I mean, they have more people in the Hall of Fame than anybody. They have a quarterback, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, a center, defensively, 2 defensive linemen and going to have another one, cornerback, middle linebacker, outside linebacker. I mean, they dominated that time. It surprised me that they did not win 6 in a row. I do not know what happened to the 2 in between.
JP: As a coach, if you kind of know that, you cannot say that aloud at the time but how do you get a team ready to play against that kind of odds?
BP: You’ve got to think you are going to win, and I thought we were going to bet them then. My God! When you look back on it, you know, you realize you are probably overmatched but at that time, you think you are going to outsmart them.
JP: Are you like a fan, like the call in the end zone? Did you worry about that at all and watch the replays?
BP: I have seen it no telling how many times and it always comes back the same way. I mean, I know he caught the ball but that doesn’t mean we would have beat them. That means we would have got tied but in all fairness, Pittsburgh would have probably figured out some way to get some points on the board. They were just too good.
JP: How did you build that strength? What changed from the time you got there until those great games with Pittsburgh?
BP: I think the fans overall. The city. You know, if you were a football player, you were king. I mean, it did not make any difference where you were. Any part of that city . . . the whole city was caught up in it, not just the cowboys and the people that like horses and cows. They were not all Westerners like I was. All of them were football fans and they loved the Houston Oilers.
JP: Yes. I had not thought of it the way you said it awhile ago. It did have that personal intensity of those high school games in Mid County where people went there and cheered and you got horribly depressed when you lost!
BP: Oh, boy! I am telling you! The city of Houston has been so good to me that I cannot believe how television could do some things. Like, I can remember driving up to a grocery store after one of the ballgames and it was raining and this is after we had played the game and I was coming home. I pulled in the grocery store, this little Stop and Shop, and I drove up and got out of the car. It had an awning over the outside and I was jogging to get up under the awning and there were 2 kids sitting there on their bicycles. One of them looked up and said, “Coach Phillips!” And I mean, he wasn’t 9 or 10 years old. Everybody in town knew me. I can’t believe it.
JP: It was like a little town.
BP: Yes. I mean, it did not make a difference what part of town you were in. TV has done an outstanding job of . . . you know, the people at home get to see the picture and it’s got the head coach in his face right up where you can see it. You could be sitting on the 10th row in the stands and cannot see what that guy looks like, so I guess that is how it got around town so much – is more people that could not go that watched it on TV because you could not get in. So, they watched it on TV and that is the only thing I can figure.
JP: I think part of it is a real sense of, kind of, old style Texas values as opposed to corporations and things – somebody from Orange, Texas, and a team that really played what they now call smash style football.
BP: And played their hearts out.
JP: Yes. We were talking about the Dome as a place to coach and a place where the fans are really on top of you and the roof holds the noise in. Was that an unusual place to try to talk to each other and coach?
BP: No. It is hard to believe but you can communicate with somebody on the sidelines. You cannot communicate with anybody on the field except for sign language but you could communicate. It was just loud, that’s all. I guess it has always been loud. When I look back on it, they were not the loudest team but they were the best fans. They appreciated football, didn’t they? Really, they knew football. I mean, they could appreciate a good play regardless of who made it.
JP: I had asked you off the camera who your favorite one of those Oilers was and you had a good answer.
BP: All of them. Earl Campbell. I mean, you cannot talk about Houston Oilers football without talking about Earl. Earl was a ________. Earl did things like a grown man and he was playing with kids. He could outrun them or he could run over them or he could dodge them. And he did whatever . . . everybody thinks of him as just running over people. He only ran over them if he had to. I mean, I have seen him make as great a move as anybody can make but eventually, he is going to end up getting tackled. They asked me one time if I was worried about how slow he got up off the ground. And I told them, no, I wasn’t worried about it because he was awful slow going down, too. The same way. He was an outstanding football . . . and a good kid. That is what really makes it good – when you get good football players and that is what our team was. We not only had good players, we had good kids on the field and off the field. They were team people. “Whatever you want to do, Coach.” _______ one time or 50 – it did not make any difference.
JP: As a coach in an organization, can you build that? Can you intentionally build that and say, we are drafting good character and keeping good character?
JP: Is that what you did?
BP: Yes. That and you talk them into it, too, you know, when you are lecturing to them. You encourage that type of thinking and you get them to thinking that they thought of it, and if they thought of it, it must be good!
JP: I am trying to think of the players that you had.
BP: Carl Mauck, Dan Pastorini, Billy White Shoes Johnson, Kenny Burrough and Mike Renfro at wide receiver, Mike Barber at tight end, Kasper the other tight end. I didn’t have him but 1 year. That is the year I got fired.
JP: Elvin Bethea was gone?
BP: No, Elvin Bethea was Pro Bowl every year. Elvin was there. We did not have ________, one of the defensive middle guards. Teddy Thompson who is the general manager of Green Bay right now was the backup linebacker. Mike Reinfeldt was the starting safety and he is the general manager for the Titans.
JP: So, more smart football players.
BP: Yes, both of them were. Good . . . Reinfeldt led the League one year, intercepted 12 passes. But he was a sharp guy and he is now.
JP: What did that team have to do to get better to get on Pittsburgh’s level? Just too many good players on the other side?
BP: We could beat them 1 out of 2. We could beat them either there or at home. All 3 years in a row, we could beat them but when it all came down to the money, we could not do it up there.
JP: Was Wade coaching for you then?
JP: What did he coach? What was his assignment?
BP: At the time, he was line coach. Defensive line. He got into pro ball. I think it was 27. I am not sure. But Bubba Smith, Totie (sp?) Smith, Curly Culp and Elvin Bethea. Of course, the Smiths were on their way down because they were on their way out because of their age. But they were a really good test for his coaching ability – I promise you. He would get them to do it and do it hard.
JP: As a father, can you evaluate his coaching ability quickly then? Can you see that he is going to be a coach and he is helping you already at 27?
BP: Oh, yes. You know, he had a way of . . . they loved him. He would tell them what they did wrong and they would understand it and looked . . . he is a good football coach. He was a good football coach that year. You know, you can’t handle 4 veterans like that, believe me. You’ve got to be a good coach. You’ve got to know what you are talking about or you will . . . if you are just trying to put on a show, they are going to find it out.
JP: Was he like you as a coach or were there differences? Did he model stuff after you, do you think?
BP: I don’t know. I didn’t ever ask him.
JP: So, what a great opportunity though to have that kind of excitement and that quality team to get to coach for them.
BP: Oh, yes. And then, we went to New Orleans and he was the coordinator over there for 5 years. So, he was with me.
JP: What is your best memory of that era of the Love Ya Blue era? Coming back after getting beat or what?
BP: That has to rank up there. Coming back was . . . all those people there. You know, when we landed at the airport and got on a bus, they had 3 busses and we got on those busses and they had the route already . . . everybody knew where the route was and it went down the boulevard. And there were cars parked up on that median all the way from the airport and people in their front yards all the way down . . . both sides. I mean, they could not come to the stadium so they just watched the bus go by. And there is no telling how many thousands of people. 23 miles of . . .
JP: Did you know you were going to have to speak before all those people because I remember they handed you the mike and you made the great comment about, “We knocked on the door and we are going to kick the son of a gun [or whatever] down.” Was that just something you made up at the spur of the moment would you say?
BP: I guess so. I did not plan it. It just didn’t seem like . . . we are going to try harder next year. That just wasn’t . . . anyhow, no, I knew I was going to get to the team gathering and I knew I was going to have to say something but I did not __________.
JP: Where did you live in Houston during those years?
BP: In Quail Valley. That is southwest.
JP: Driving up 59 and going to the Dome ________?
BP: We went another way. We went around 6. 6 went to 288. There wasn’t a 288 then. But 6, you could go that way and go in South Main. It was easier for us.
JP: Yes, not a bad commute. Did you still have kids in school?
BP: I always had kids in school.
JP: I mean, like in high school?
BP: Well, I had 5 girls and only 2 of them had graduated. No, 3 of them. So, I had 3 in school.
JP: What is it like being a famous dad – where you say people watch you on TV and your kids have to live with a famous dad? Did it affect them much?
BP: I don’t know. I don’t guess I ever asked them.
JP: Did you go to their school to watch things?
BP: No. There wasn’t a whole lot going on at 10 o’clock at night and that is when we got off.
JP: How much did you work in a normal football season?
BP: When I first started, we worked until midnight every day of the week and we continued that for probably maybe when I got to San Diego, Sid would let us off around 10. Believe me . . . but it is not what you think. It is not somebody telling you to work. It is things you want to do. It is things that you enjoy doing. I mean, planning and getting ready for a game is just as much fun as playing it, as a coach.
JP: And a lot of that work – am I right – would just be you trying to figure out how your system matches up with theirs and where . . .
BP: Well, that and the other assistant coaches, yes. And when you go home, even if you went up like on Fridays or Saturdays, we would go home earlier. But even when you’d get home, it is still on your mind. It is on your mind all the time and if it is not, you are not going to win. It had better be your hobby and your love and everything else because that is the only way it will work.
JP: Whatever you care to say, how do we understand you going to New Orleans, after all that, after those two great seasons? What happened to get you out of Houston?
BP: They fired me. Bud fired me. Well, Bud didn’t fire me. Brad Herzog fired me. I never had a cross word with Bud Adams in the 7 years or 6 years as a coach. Never, even the day he fired me. And that is his business. If he wants to run it that way, that is the way I have always looked at it. I did not expect the players that I called in and told them I was going to cut them, I did not expect them to throw a fit. I mean, that’s it. That is the way you do things. But Herzog was the problem, not Bud. Brad Herzog was a bookkeeper. He was an Arthur Anderson guy and he worked for the Cleveland Browns with Arthur Anderson, not with the Cleveland Browns. But when he put his application in to Bud, I guess that is the way it came out; that he had been with the Cleveland Browns. All he was was an auditor. He wasn’t a football man. So, Bud hired him as a . . . and he really was a good money manager. That was his _________. And about the second year _________, he decided he wanted a projector and the film. I didn’t care so they gave him one. Well then, by the next year, he knew more than I did.
JP: He learned fast.
BP: Yes, and he did not like . . . you know, he was like everybody – he wants to run it himself. So, he convinced Bud that he did not need to meet with me anymore on Monday after the game. He convinced Bud that he could do a whole lot better if Lad would talk to me and tell him what I wanted to say and then he could come tell me what Bud said and they weren’t the same. __________. That is the reason we split up. It wasn’t just Bud. I just don’t remember, I guess. But I did real good out of it. I got a whole lot more money. When I went to work for John Mecom, I made more in one year than I did all 5 of them out with Bud.
JP: Oh, really? How did you find out you were being let go?
BP: He called me in the office. I thought I was going to get my contract renewed.
JP: Your raise?
BP: Yes! And he said, “You need an offensive coordinator.” Well, that was what Herzog knew because he had told me that and I told him I didn’t need one. So, he convinced Bud that . . . I am sure he convinced Bud that we needed one, knowing that I would not hire one. I had 3 guys that were all good football coaches and they did not have an offensive coordinator. They knew how to run their part of it and they all did a great job of getting along. If you would have hired an offensive coordinator and brought him in over those guys, they would not have been as good. They would not have . . . and they did not need one. So, I said, “No, I don’t want one.” They said, “Well, I am going to have to let you go.” I said, “Well, that is your business.”
JP: Is John Mecom still in Houston then and on the _______?
JP: And he is willing to pay you a lot of money?
JP: So, you stay in New Orleans almost as long as you stayed in Houston? I did not realize that.
JP: And Earl Campbell came with you some of that time?
BP: No, the tail end of it. The last year of his career. But his career was, for all intents and purposes, over.
JP: Well then, when you retired, where did you live? How did you get to here in Goliad?
BP: We looked all over the state. We looked at Kerrville and went ______________. We looked everywhere, all over the country. This was probably 3, 4, 5 months. Every weekend, we would go. And then, we were looking around Beeville and because Debbie had heard somewhere – she remembered that Beeville was a nice place, so we went to Beeville and we looked all over. I mean, we looked at like 50 ranches and did not find anything we wanted that we could afford so we were getting ready to come home when the real estate lady said, “Do you all mind living in Goliad?” ___________. There was one place and she told us about this place and we drove down the road that you drove down to get here and noticed the 2 big ranches – we did not know who they were but there were big ranches next to it and there wasn’t anybody going to move in with a bunch of trailers. Anyhow, we finally got the lady to meet us out here and we looked at this place. But it was woods. I mean, solid woods. Brush everywhere. There was this fence around the yard but it was 5 strand barbed wire fence. And that is the only fence except the perimeter fence. And I got a dozer and did it all.
JP: How long have you been here now?
BP: 13 years.
JP: And you said that is the longest you have ever lived in one place by far?
BP: Oh, yes. I never dreamed I would live . . . well, I got out of coaching. You know, they don’t fire you for living somewhere, they fire you for not winning games.
JP: Yes. Are you still a fan of football? Do you still watch it a lot?
BP: I watch it all the time. We watch every game.
JP: Oh, you’ve got all of them?
BP: Oh, yes. We’ve got where you can flip from one to the other one. We’ve got NFL.
JP: Who is your favorite coach and team now?
BP: I only have 2 now. Well, you know, Wade in Dallas. Dallas has always been good to me. Back when I was coaching at _______, Dick Noland, who was a secondary coach for Dallas, was scouting and he was on the way looking for players. And he stopped by ________ and he was the first guy that told me anything about man-to-man coverage. And we started playing man-to-man coverage back in 1962. And nobody else was playing it. I mean, colleges or nobody was playing man-to-man. You don’t have to use it but this is a true story: I don’t want to tell it . . . I was at the University of Houston and a guy comes out and he says, “You’ve got a phone call.” I said, “Who is it?” ________. “Who is it?” “Coach Brown.” I said, “I’d better go.” So, I answered the phone. He comes to the point right away. He said, “Bum?” I said, “Yes, sir?” He said, “What are you doing good?” Well, he wanted something special. I said, “Man-to-man defense.” He said, “Really?” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Tell me about it.” I said, “Coach, it is going” . . . He said, “It is my phone call. Tell me about it.” And we talked for maybe an hour. The next day, he called again. About 5 days in a row, he called every day and we would talk about man-to-man. Anyhow, that was in 1965 or 1966. We went to the NCAA, it was in Washington that year and I walked in the hotel, in the lobby, and there are people everywhere but, you know, he is taller than most folks and he is standing in the lobby and there are a ring of people around him, 5 or 6 deep. And he is looking. Of course, he saw me come in because he could see over their heads and he said . . . I walked over there and everybody got out of the way and I walked up, shook hands. He said, “You and your man-to-man defense.” I said, “What’s the matter?” He said, “Didn’t you see the Orange Bowl?” And I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Well, you didn’t tell me . . . didn’t you see that guy running wide open for a touchdown?” I said, “Yes, sir.” And he said, “You didn’t tell me who to cover him with.” He said, “Don’t tell me about that man-to-man defense again.” And everybody laughed and I left. The next morning, he was in the restaurant and he sits up at the bar. He does not sit at a table. I walked up and sat down by him and I said, “Coach, what coverage? There are a jillion coverages and combinations and everything.” I said, “What coverage were you all in?” “Oh, hell, Bum,” he says, “We were zone defense.” I said, “I thought you were man-to-man?” He said, “No, it made a better story.” That’s the truth. That is the way he was.
JP: Well, we are getting to the end here. Any observations you want to add, feel free. I am curious about because you do have Wade to watch and football – how has the coaching profession changed since you left it, do you think? Are there big changes that you can see?
BP: It is still who scores the most. Offense, it seems like to me is a little more prevalent than . . . but that is because they have good offensive players. You know, __________ have good offensive players, Baltimore, they have to win on defense. That part has not changed. They’ve got an awful lot of coaches though, and everybody’s got staff of 15, 16 people.
JP: You watch your grandson coaching with your son. Is that kind of fun to do?
BP: Oh, yes.
JP: Does he come talk to you? Does he pick your brain at all?
BP: Not really. We don’t talk much football. They’ve got their thing to do and it has been 25 years almost since I was in Houston. And 21 or 22 since I was in New Orleans. And they have gone their own way and got their own ideas about things. If they ask me something, I tell them but, you know, I told Wade everything I knew in the 11 years he coached for me. If I had any secrets, I would have given them to him, wouldn’t I, my own son coaching my own team? You bet! So, not really – I don’t have anything I can add to that.
JP: I did not realize you had not been in Houston for 25 years almost. That is a long time.
JP: Do you go back much now? Do you have any reasons to go back?
JP: Are you a Texan fan or a Titan fan deep down inside?
BP: Oh, deep down? When the Oilers moved, my association was over.
JP: Oh, really?
BP: Yes. I pull for Houston and believe me, they are doing a good job up there. They’ve now got them a good general manager and good coaching staff. They picked the right players and they are going to be . . . I am telling you, they are in a division that’s got Indianapolis, Jacksonville and _______. That is 3. The only other division that is like that, that is that tough is the one Wade is in. Dallas and Philadelphia and Washington.
JP: You’d better be ready to win for a whole season, not just ________.
BP: You’d better believe it!
JP: So, does your old high school coach past come back at all? Do you go watch high school ball at all?
BP: Oh, no. I don’t know why we don’t go. I don’t know. I hate to say this – it is kind of like if you are a deep sea fisherman and somebody wants to come catch perch with a pole, it just don’t seem to be as exciting. I imagine I would like the game if I went but I don’t go.
JP: So, you have lived a long life in football from Orange to Nederland to UTEP to San Diego. Is Houston still kind of a special place in your life and in your memory of it?
BP: It always will be, yes.
JP: And when you think back about Houston, is that first memory that big crowd at the Dome?
BP: No, the first memory is when people at the Dome ______ the game. When we got there, they wouldn’t have 25,000, 30,000 people.
JP: And that is a bad place to watch football when it is empty because you are so far away from the field.
BP: Yes. But, you know, once they got started and they got behind the team, then everything changed. ______.
JP: Growing up in Orange, watching your dad drive back and forth from Houston, did you ever imagine that your life would end up like this?
BP: No, I had no idea.
JP: Did you ever imagine when it was happening? That must be kind of . . . suddenly, you are flying to San Diego, you are meeting all these people.
BP: Well, I got some breaks. I feel like I earned them but I had some people that recommended me that are well-known. You’ve got to get some breaks. You can be playing really good and lose one player on your team at a certain critical time and it changes your whole season.
JP: Yes. Do you have anything you would like to add for the tape? David, do you have any questions? Do you have anything you want to add?
BP: I am worn out.
JP: Me, too, and I haven’t had to talk. Very good, thank you.