NASHVILLE --- Teresa Phillips, Tennessee State University Director of Athletics, announced today that she plans to retire from her leadership position as the head of the Tiger program. Phillips, who will remain in her role until June 2020, will step-away after a 17-year tenure.
“The decision to retire has been one that I have contemplated for several years and I have finally decided that this year is the right time,” said Phillips. “I leave this position with much pride, reflecting on the many talented student-athletes who have worn the blue and white with integrity. Thank you to the administration, students, community supporters and alumni of this great institution, Tennessee State University! It has been an honor to represent you as Athletics Director.”
Under Phillips’ leadership, the Tigers have experienced success on and off the field and her influence extends well beyond the athletics program.
During Phillips’ tenure, TSU has won 12 Ohio Valley Conference Championships - five Indoor Track and Field Championships, three Outdoor Track and Field Championships, two Volleyball titles and one Women’s Basketball championship. Additionally, men’s golf has won the National Minority Golf Championship.
“Teresa has meant so much to this Conference," commented OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche. "She has been a tremendous leader who has contributed in so many ways, including serving as an OVC representative on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Committee, the Chair of our Athletic Directors Group, a champion-level coach and an exemplary Athletic Director. She is a consensus builder and a visionary thinker who has made the OVC better by her commitment to student-athletes. She is a friend to all in this league who will be dearly missed.”
Some other accomplishments under the Phillips' administration include the launching of the first official website for TSU Athletics, a stellar graduation rate of student-athletes, numerous OVC Scholars, the awarding of a $900,000 NCAA Pilot Grant, the construction of the Indoor Practice Facility as well as other athletic facility and office upgrades.
Phillips also has the distinction of being the first woman ever to coach an NCAA Division I men's basketball team en route to being named one of the 101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports by Sports Illustrated in 2003. During the 2014 Women’s Final Four, she was named as a one of 10 Legends in Women’s Basketball in Tennessee.
She was also recognized as the Second Most Influential Woman in Sports in Tennessee by The Tennessean newspaper. In addition, she was named USA Today National Coach of the Year in 1990 and was a three-time OVC Coach of the Year selection.
No stranger to athletic success, she was head coach of the Lady Tigers basketball program at TSU for 11 seasons from 1989-2000. Phillips guided the 1993-94 squad to the programs first-ever OVC regular season crown, the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship, and the team's first appearance ever in the NCAA tournament. The following year, Phillips led the program to its second consecutive regular season and tournament championship, totaling four titles as a head coach.
She graduated from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor's degree in Economics before obtaining a Masters in Education from TSU in 1999.
Phillips earned several honors as a three-year letter winner at Vanderbilt. She was the first recipient of the Lady Commodore Athlete of the Year honor, given to the best all-around female athlete. She also has the honor of being the first African-American female student-athlete at Vanderbilt. In 2017, she was inducted in the Vanderbilt Sports Hall of Fame.
Phillips has been appointed to several boards and committees which include: NCAA Basketball Rules, NCAA Championship Cabinet, NCAA Administrative Cabinet, the NCAA HBCU Advisory Board, the NCAA W. Basketball Selection Committee, Fellowship of Christian Athletes Board, Boys & Girls Club Board, the Vanderbilt Alumni Advisory Board, the Nashville Final Four Executive Board, the Girls Preparatory School Alumni Board, the Nashville Dinner of Champions Committee and the Executive Board of the Nashville Sports Council.
She has held memberships in several organizations, including the Black Coaches Association, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
She is an inaugural member of the Girls Preparatory School Sports Hall of Fame, the Lookout Mountain Sports Hall of Fame, Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame and was honored in 2016 with the prestigious Betty Probasco Lifetime Achievement Award.
Letter to TSU Community
It is with excitement and a little trepidation that I announce this will be my last Homecoming as Athletics Director! I have decided to retire as Athletics Director of Tennessee State University, effective June 30, 2020. The decision is one that I have contemplated for several years and I have finally decided that this year is the right time.
I shared my intention with President Glenda Glover in mid-August of this year, and she is supportive. I want to thank Dr. Glover for her continued support of me during the last five plus years and I wish her the best as her administration works to move the university and athletics to new heights.
I am thankful for the opportunity given to me by former AD Bill Thomas to become the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at TSU in May 1989. In this role, I was privileged to coach some of the greatest Lady Tiger players in the history of the program, all of whom are exceptional individuals who have gone on to be very successful in their personal and professional endeavors. I feel so very blessed to have been their coach, their parent in absentia and now to many, their friend. The coaches on my staff over those 11 years became my extended family, and I will forever owe them a debt of gratitude for their commitment to TSU, and for their loyalty and love over the years. I also must thank former President James A. Hefner, for naming me Athletics Director in 2002, and for believing that “students matter most.” Know that I am so grateful for each leg of my career journey at TSU—a journey which I have pursued with care, compassion, honesty and integrity.
I leave this position with much pride, reflecting on the many talented student-athletes who have worn the blue and white with integrity. They entered TSU to learn and to play a sport, keeping at the forefront their paramount objectives of obtaining an education and going forth to serve. Their dedication and focus are driving factors, which led to the high graduation rate of our athletes, an achievement for which we can all be proud. Please know that I will be cheering for and alongside you as you battle for those coveted championships under new leadership.
As Athletics Director, one of the issues I am aware of is just how many student- athletes face the challenge of not progressing because of small funding gaps. Sometimes, just a few hundred dollars is all that is standing between a student and his or her goal to progress to graduation. To commemorate my upcoming retirement, today, I am announcing a $5,000 donation to the Athletics department to fund the Teresa Lawrence Phillips TSU Student-Athlete Completion Scholarship.This scholarship is designed to bridge the gap and fund the “last dollar” post semester financial needs for TSU student athletes, up to $500 each, to graduate.
Thank you to the administration, students, community supporters and alumni of this great institution, Tennessee State University! It has been an honor to represent you as Athletics Director.
~ Teresa L. Phillips
Director of Athletics
What They Are Saying
OVC Commissioner Beth DaBauche
Teresa has meant so much to this Conference. She has been a tremendous leader who has contributed in so many ways, including serving as an OVC representative on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Committee, the Chair of our Athletic Directors Group, a champion-level coach and an exemplary Athletic Director. She is a consensus builder and a visionary thinker who has made the OVC better by her commitment to student-athletes. She is a friend to all in this league who will be dearly missed.”
TSU Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Brian “Penny” Collins
Losing Coach Phillips is a huge blow for me personally. We have a mother/son relationship that can’t be broken. I will forever be grateful to her for believing in me. Coach gave me an opportunity I’m not sure I would ever gotten otherwise. She is a legendary coach, educator, and administrator. What she has done in her career is second to none and we wish Coach Phillips nothing but the best in the next phase of her life. Love you coach!
TSU Head Women’s Basketball Coach Jessica Kern
I remember the day I met Coach Phillips. I knew I wanted to be under her tutelage. For everything she means to women of color, women in sports, women in administration, women’s basketball, Division 1 athletics, TSU, HBCU’s, the City of Nashville and anyone who aspires to break down barriers - I humbly say thank you. I am a better woman, mother & coach because of her influence. I will forever be grateful and wish her a retirement filled with continues joy. This season is for her!
Former Player WBB LaTessa Hickerson, OVC Champion 94 & 95
She is a Champion.
Top Notch- No Other One Like Her. Trailblazer.
Mentor, Mother, Hard Worker. She has been a pioneer -at opening doors.
She made us self-sufficient, who we are today. She paved the way for the Lady Tigers and the women’s basketball program. She took us all in as her own. She has been there when some of us had no one else.
Thank you for the knowledge you imparted on me. Your love and success has no end. You are an inspiration to me and many others and someone that we all look up too!
Connie Swift Thompson, Former WBB Player, OVC Champion 94 & 95
Coach Teresa Lawrence Phillips
It was a several years ago during a church conference, when I was asked to think of people who have influenced me the most.
Coach Lawrence was one of the first to come to my mind. She inspired me to persevere with excellence and endurance.
As a coach, she is most famous for emphasizing action verbs with the prefix “re”.
“re-screen”, “re-shoot”, “rerun the play again”,“re-down pick and re-roll”, “re-V-cut”
Coach Lawrence will forever be considered as “one of a kind” and cannot be “re-duplicated.
Jeremy Perry, Former Student-Athlete, TSU Director of Academic Services
Ms. Phillips is a true staple to the TSU Athletic Department. Her time here has been filled with moments that allow us to witness her poise and leadership. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have worked under her and forever thankful that she entrusted me with the opportunity to lead our Academic unit. Her journey has been special and I look forward to seeing her excel with whatever she pursues moving forward.
Parrish McGrath, Head Golf Coach
As a coach turned Athletics Director it’s easy to assume she always remembered what it was like to coach, but through her mentoring it is evident she never forgot what it was like to be a student athlete.
Chandra Cheeseborough, TSU Director of Track and Field
It is with sad regret that I am losing a boss and a friend. I wish Coach Phillips well and in all her endeavors.
Andrea Browning, TSU Head Softball Coach
Coach Phillips will always have a special place in my heart for taking a chance on me and giving me my first collegiate head coaching job. I am beyond grateful for having the opportunity to work for and learn from such a strong, influential and supportive leader. Coach gave her all to TSU and she will be greatly missed, but her impact and legacy will stay with us always. We wish her the very best in this next chapter. Thank you Coach!
Donika Sutton, TSU Head Volleyball Coach
It is a pleasure to serve under A.D. Phillips. To hear her story is beyond inspiring. A true trailblazer in her own right, who afforded me a opportunity to impact, influence and inspire student-athletes and I am forever grateful. On behalf of Tiger Volleyball we would like to show our appreciation for all that she has done to enhance and elevate our program. She will forever be an Iconic figure and legend for Tennessee State University, TSU Athletics and the Sport of Basketball.
Kim Graves, Former WBB Player, OVC Champion 94 & 95
I've learned over time that when you come across special people you have to hold onto them. As a young woman, newly untethered from home I could not have been more blessed to have Teresa Lawrence Phillips as my coach. A big part of the woman I am today is because I had such an amazing role model to learn from. I am so very happy for MY COACH and feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from her as an athlete, as a woman, and as a professional.