Some people are almost seemingly born into opportunity and worth, yet spend their lives searching for how to gain talent; meanwhile, there are others who work relentlessly to create opportunities, for their talents to be realized.
My name is Don ”Tex” Phillips and since the conception of a male child that was born into Earth’s plane on a Friday at 7:00am; my life has always reflected the latter and it is because of these experiences, that fuel my flame.
The question is always asked: “Where are you from and how did you end-up in Canada?”
The answer has always been consistent – “Life, I made a left when I should’ve made a right.” The facial response I receive is always one of confusion and I am always asked to expand upon my answer, so I will take this moment to do just that.
Life is education and education is life; meaning those of us who are blessed with the opportunity to live long, healthy and career-oriented lives, have done so because of the ability to identify the problem, brainstorm possible solutions, simulate those solutions, make a decision and most importantly ‘learn’ from the results; in addition to, the results of others and their life experiences.
Through this process, you prove daily this slogan to be true – I know I have.
I was born and raised in three regions of North America and it has taken a lot of hard work, determination and perseverance to make it to where I am currently in life.
Every person has a journey tale and I am no different as my life travels have been one of many twists, turns, trials and tribulations.
I have evolved from the twelve year old who lost his parents and grandmother within a two-year span. As a fifteen year old, it was decided by my sister (my guardian) that it was best for me to live with my biological Grandfather and most importantly two very physically fit and imposing uncles (former NFL players) that had the muscles and communication skills to keep me in track if I started to show signs of disrespect and/or derailment off the beaten path, before becoming a McDonald’s All American Top 75 nominee.
As a 6’5 236lbs, B+ academic average student-athlete, I drew interest from the likes of Duke, Virginia, Minnesota etc. because my mentality was to hit a three, dunk on someone, finish them with the and-one or completely lock someone down from scoring, and let them know about it –despite whoever was in the stands.
Ultimately, I accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Wyoming in a 1991 freshman class that included: Hassan Sanders, Theo Ratliff & myself–the headliner, Don”Tex”Phillips.
I competed as a freshman on a talent laced roster that included three eventual NBA players: Theo Ratliff (15-years/ NBA All-Star), Reginald Slater (10-years) and Tim Breaux (5-years); until my individual performances were hampered by cysts that developed on both my knees.
At this point, playing the game that I loved and being the dominant player became a daily bout with pain – to the extent that I could barely walk after playing. The medical staff at Wyoming were puzzled and couldn’t find the culprit as to what was causing the excruciating pain and their job was to get a talented player on the court and playing ASAP, so it was suggested that I start a regiment of taking daily anti-inflammatory/pain pills.
After a multitude of X-Rays and stomach aches, I was finally scheduled to undergo a MRI and the results immediately revealed the cysts (one as big as a quarter on my left and another as large as an American dollar coin). The choice now was, do I continue to take anti-inflammatories (that were harming my stomach lining) play out my eligibility and go pro? Or should I have surgery and possibly play pain free?
Well, I chose the latter. After major surgery on my right knee and a scope on my left knee I was forced to transfer because after the surgery, I wasn’t the fastest, most explosive and most versatile player on the roster anymore.
Unfortunately, I learned first-hand about the politics that exists within the NCAA and how they treat student-athletes like race horses – if you can still run and win races you are useful, but once you cannot race and win at the highest level…many of these institutions can care less; that was my harsh reality.
This experience is what inspired me to tailor my career towards using basketball as my most valuable teaching tool, and helping someone’s child through hard times.
After being forced to relocate, I chose to settle for an NCAA Division-2 school, and while I was in the gym playing some pick-up ball I was approached by a stranger by the name of Dave Dominique (former Brandon Bobcat) and he asked if I would consider going to Canada to play ball – I responded by saying I will go anywhere to get my education.
The thought of earning another year of eligibility (CIS allows 5 years) of playing ball meanwhile working towards my goal of becoming an Educator/Coach sat well with me.
I arrived in Manitoba in the fall of 1995 with only two-years of eligibility remaining but I knew that because of my past experiences – that my calling was to be an Educator and Coach.
I was determined not to go back home to the States without becoming a University graduate so I played one year with the Bobcats and took eight years off because I wanted to play my final year of eligibility during my last year of my Masters of Education courses.
After my playing career came to an end it was time to start my transition to the coaching ranks, so I called up the great Howard Garfinkle (co-Director/creator) of Five-Star Basketball Camp. Howard (affectionally known by many as Garf) remembered me from my days as a successful camper and gladly invited me to annually coach in his camp during the summer holidays.
During my time at Five-Star, I was injected into what I deemed basketball heaven and because I was one of Garf’s favorite former campers, he took it upon himself to immerse me into the company of some of North America’s historically greatest basketball coaches.
I had the opportunity to pick the brains of coaches like Rick Patino, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Hubie Brown, Mike Fratelo and others. In addition, I was blessed with the opportunity to coach many of today’s top NBA players: Chris Paul, Jarret Jack, Raymond Felton and Lebron James (to name a few).
When I returned to my home in Brandon I worked as an assistant coach (four-years) alongside Jerry Hemming’s, and learned from the strengths and weaknesses of one of the most successful coaches in CIAU/CIS history, and his highly successful Brandon University Bobcats: (734-wins, 19- GPAC champions 1- Canwest Championship & 4 CIAU/CIS Championships).
One of the many things I remember from my Grandmother was that she always told me “when you find a good woman, you better know something” so taking that into consideration and the fact that I was about to have my first child, my wife & I decided to make Edmonton, Alberta our home to raise our family.
Since my arrival in Edmonton, I’ve been fortunate to coach and enjoy success at all levels from high school to the CIS. First, as a one-year assistant for Darrel Cleave and Grant MacEwan (36-7, CCAA silver medal), Head Coach at Bellerose Composite High School (undefeated season), Head Coach at Paul Kane (70-6) in two years (silver & gold Provincial Medals); in addition, to serving as one of the lead assistant for another CIS coaching great (two-years) in Don Horwood and his University of Alberta Golden Bears (nearly 600-wins 3 CIAU/CIS Championships & 2 silver medals).
Lastly, I was the Head Coach at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) where I lead the Ooks to back-to-back ACAC Champions in a short span of three-years.
Though I have been blessed with the opportunity to briefly display my dedication and commitment to the sport and profession, I still feel like my job & purpose is far from done. That’s why I decided to join the North Pole Hoops team.
North Pole Hoops is a trendsetting vehicle geared towards the growth of one (if not the most) dynamic sports ever created. I look forward to combining with a unique group of basketball minds/basketball enthusiasts in a collective effort to contribute to the basketball community; student-athletes, coaches, developers and Canadian alumni not only in the Province of Alberta, but beyond.
I was always told – that a Wiseman once told a Wiseman that, if your habits don’t line-up with your genes, you have to either change your habits or change your genes, and we know which one of those are changeable.
To this extent, I am confident in stating that I was born to be an Educator/Coach. I was born with the insight of assessing a student/student-athlete’s strengths and weaknesses and I was born with the communication skills and passion to be able to reach, teach and eventually develop a variety of learning styles; and finally I was born to use my personal positive and negative experiences to help unfortunate, misguided student-athletes, and others who may lack consistent parental guidance, who may be misunderstood, who may be very talented and who maybe fighting daily to show his/her social-worth.
To me, this is what it’s all about–helping young people put themselves in position to be providers for themselves and their future family. If I can help them detour around a few of the many potholes I have encountered, then I am happy and confident that I am helping them experience the same success I have been fortunate to encounter, while competing at the most important game.
The game of life.