A sad day in Houston.
Oail Andrew “Bum” Phillips Jr., who spent half his adult life as a football coach and every waking moment as the personification of all things Texan, died Friday at his ranch in Goliad.
Phillips was three weeks past his 90th birthday and more than three decades removed from his heyday as head coach of the Oilers from 1975 through 1980. But he will be remembered as the personification of a time, a place and a team that remains deep in the hearts of everyone who saw them play.
The end came on a cool autumn football weekend as Houston’s current pro team, the Texans, prepares to play Sunday with his son, Wade, serving as defensive coordinator. Family members said Wade Phillips visited with his father before rejoining the team for its trip to Kansas City.
“Bum is gone to Heaven-loved and will be missed by all -great Dad,Coach, and Christian,” Wade Phillips, whose Twitter handle is @sonofbum, tweeted shortly after 10 p.m.
Bum Phillips was a product of a family that traced its roots to Texas’ frontier past, and he did his job dressed in boots, jeans and a white Stetson – except at the Astrodome, since his mama told him it was impolite to wear a hat indoors.
He was, said one admirer, the “Will Rogers of the NFL,” justly famous for such sayings as, “There’s two kinds of coaches: them that’s been fired, and them that’s gonna be fired.”
But it was his relationship with his players – and theirs to him – and his ability to relate to fans that cemented his place among the legends of Texas football coaches with the likes of Darrell Royal, Tom Landry and Gordon Wood.
“Bum Phillips’ Oilers succeeded in a way that will never be measured by percentages and trophies,” wrote former Chronicle columnist Ed Fowler in a book about the team. “They symbolized a city rather than merely representing it.”
They called it “Luv Ya Blue,” and from 1978 through 1980, it was the biggest thing in Houston sports. In truth, the city has not seen anything to top it.
There’s a ton more out there – here, here, here, and here for starters, but if you only read one other thing about Bum Phillips, make it Dale Robertson’s column, which includes many of Phillips’ famous quotes. Sometimes, sports icons don’t live up to their billing. Sometimes you find out, often years later, that they weren’t at all the person you thought they were from what you’d seen and heard. If anyone had anything bad to say about Bum Phillips, I’ve not seen it. By every account I’ve come across, he was exactly who he seemed to be. He will be missed. Rest in peace, Bum Phillips.