Phillips Excited To Call Athens His New Home

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Saul Phillips was introduced as Ohio’s men’s basketball coach Tuesday, and there is no doubt that he is excited about being in Athens.

One of the largest draws of the job for Phillips was the recruiting base in Athens, Ohio. It could be difficult to recruit players to Fargo, North Dakota, as it is not near many major cities and large talent pools. With Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus all within reasonable drives of Athens, that is no longer an issue for Phillips.

“I can use the same template I’ve used for success in Fargo, North Dakota here, and I’ve got more talent in the area than I had,” Phillips said. “We were a long way from a lot of talent base; we’ve got (talent) around here.”

Phillips spent seven years at North Dakota State where he compiled a 134-84 record. The Wisconsin native noted that he has no plans to leave Athens any time soon. Phillips, the 18th coach in school history stated that he wants the coach count to stay at 18 for a long time.

“The men that preceded me were extremely successful, and they deserved to move on.” Phillips said. “I’m at a different point in my life; I want to be here. I want this to be home”

He understands the difficulties the players are facing right now, becoming acclimated with a new coaching staff and new system, but he plans to and has already started building a strong relationship with the current players.

“I’m not going to be their first coach in college, but I’m going to be their last,” Phillips explained.

Phillips spent most of Tuesday meeting with current players. On Wednesday, the team will begin offseason workouts with Phillips.

“I’m going to get those guys as close to me as I possibly can,” Phillips stated.

Current players Treg Setty and Stevie Taylor were in attendance Tuesday, and they both cited Coach Phillips’ passion and enthusiasm as points of excitement for the team.

Phillips is following two successful head coaches in John Groce and Jim Christian, who had records of 85-56 and 49-22 at Ohio, respectively.  Phillips, though, has coached under several successful coaches in his career, including Bo Ryan of Wisconsin, Greg McDermott of Creighton and Tim Miles of Nebraska.

Phillips says he plans to take things from each of those coaches but will focus on Ryan’s specialty, taking care of the ball, in particular.

“I didn’t come out of the womb predestined to be a really good basketball coach; I was placed in front of people that really know how to teach,” Phillips said. “If I listened and learned, I was certainly destined to have a chance to do some pretty good things, and I can’t wait to apply it at a place like this.”