A Texas white hat crossed through the pearly gates Friday.
“Bum” Phillips, the former NFL football coach, who led the Houston Oilers to glory and struggled with the New Orleans Saints, died at age 90.
“Bum is gone to Heaven-loved and will be missed by all -great Dad, Coach, and Christian,” tweeted his son Wade Phillips, himself defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans.
Phillips’ tall, white Stetson cowboy hat was hard to miss, though he didn’t wear it in domed stadiums like Houston’s Astrodome or the Louisiana Superdome. His mother told him never to wear his hat indoors, he liked to say.
His nickname stuck out like a sore thumb, especially whenever his team’s stakes were down and fans weren’t being nice about it.
Bum was born Oail Andrew Phillips in 1923, but his older sister stuttered and couldn’t say the word “brother.” It came out wrong, and the affectionate nickname was born, according to an official biography.
It was an term of endearment that had no derogatory meaning.
Bumisms But Phillips’ true trademark were the deadpan sayings he regularly dropped, fully original and spiced with humor and gritty truisms. They got him laughed at sometimes and admired at other times for their grain of truth.
The term “Bumism” was coined to collect them.
His most famous one had to be: “There’s two kinds of coaches, them that’s fired and them that’s gonna be fired.”
He once told sportscaster Bob Costas that the reason that he took his wife on away games was, “because she’s too ugly to kiss goodbye,” the NFL said.
Phillips started his career as a high school coach in the 1950s and 1960s, according to the NFL. He joined the Oilers in 1974 as defensive coordinator, when they were defeated and down, then advanced to head coach and in the late 1970s turned them into a winning team.
The Oilers are now the Tennessee Titans and Houston’s team is now the Texans.
He had a reputation for being an affectionate motivator. The NFL put him on a list of the 10 most motivational coaches in professional football history.
Phillips came to New Orleans in 1981 on his cowboy boots and tightened up the Saints’ defense. He got them their second-ever non-losing season in 1983 — an 8-8 record, but he didn’t have the same level of success that he did in Houston.
In 1985, he resigned to dedicate himself to ranching, his family and Christian charities, and didn’t seem to miss football too much.
“I still love football,” he told the NFL. “You can’t do something for 50 years and not love it, but I love it where it’s at, and I love where I’m at” — his ranch in Goliad, Texas.
And, according to local news reports, that’s where he died.