Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Woman to coach Division I men's team

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee State athletic director Teresa Phillips will make history Thursday night as the first woman to coach a men's Division I college basketball team.

The unprecedented decision came after 19 players were ejected following a brawl between Tennessee State and Eastern Kentucky on Monday night.

Phillips suspended interim coach Hosea Lewis for one game Tuesday and announced she would coach the Tigers when they play at Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn.

It's believed to be the first time that a woman will coach male players in a major team sport.

There are plenty of men coaching women's college basketball teams. Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma has won three NCAA titles and two out of the last three.

But the only women to ever serve as coaches for a men's Division I team were assistants: Mary Fenlon at Georgetown and Bernadette Locke at Kentucky.

Phillips was not immediately available for comment Tuesday. The Vanderbilt graduate coached the Tennessee State women to a 212-189 record from 1989-2000. She took over a program that had been 2-25 and went 12-14 in her first season.

The Tennessee State men are in an even worse state of affairs than Phillips' early teams. The Tigers are 2-20 and 0-11 in the Ohio Valley Conference and previously dealt with coaching turmoil this season.

Nolan Richardson III, the son of former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, resigned Jan. 8, two weeks after Phillips suspended him indefinitely for bringing a gun into the school's gym. Richardson admitted he got the gun out of his car during an argument with Lewis, who was then his assistant. Phillips hired Lewis as interim coach upon Richardson's resignation.

Monday night's brawl broke out with 8:13 to play in the Tigers' 89-72 loss at Eastern Kentucky. Eastern's Shawn Fields had the ball when a hard foul was called on TSU's Cedric Bryson, prompting players from both benches to run onto the floor.

Fields, Bryson and Eastern's Kenyatta Dix and Champ Slaughter were ejected for fighting, while nine players from both teams were ejected for leaving the bench. The rest of the players who were in the game when the fight started also were ejected.

The game resumed with only four players on each side; Tennessee State finished with three players after one of them fouled out.

The conference is investigating the brawl, but Phillips didn't wait to take action.

"Monday night's altercation is certainly not indicative of the outstanding athletic spirit of the OVC or Tennessee State University," Phillips said in a statement. "We look forward to completing our season on a positive note."

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