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College basketball

Gender barrier falls in Tennessee State loss

©Associated Press

February 14, 2003


CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- Teresa Phillips showed that a woman can coach a men's team.

Getting a victory, however, might require more effort than she or the Tennessee State players can muster.

Phillips made history Thursday night by becoming the first woman to coach a men's Division I team, but her presence couldn't stop the Tigers from losing their 17th straight, 71-56 at Austin Peay.

Afterward, Phillips promptly announced she would not coach the team again. She's returning to her day job as athletic director, and interim coach Hosea Lewis will resume his duties after serving a one-game suspension for a benches-clearing brawl against Eastern Kentucky on Monday night.

"I have to hang up my whistle already. I'm officially retired," Phillips said.

She's not going away completely. Assistant coach Chris Graves and several players asked her to keep helping at practice after the team's best performance of the Ohio Valley Conference season.

"I'll do it in that role, because they are two coaches short. That is the only reason," she said.

Maybe it was her tips during the one-hour bus ride from Nashville, or just the excitement of all the cameras and national media attention, but Tennessee State (2-21, 0-12) looked much better than its record indicated. Nine days earlier, the Tigers lost at home to Austin Peay by 25.

Tennessee State never led in that one, but with Phillips alternately sitting on the bench or standing to yell instructions, the Tigers actually led four times in this milestone game. Roshaun Bowens' baseline drive put them up 22-21 with 6:18 left before halftime.

But the Governors scored 17 straight to take a 38-22 halftime lead, denying Phillips the chance for a truly groundbreaking victory.

Austin Peay coach Dave Loos said the Tigers played with more energy and enthusiasm than in their previous meeting.

"I thought they had a good game plan," he said. "They confused us with the zone. We stayed on the perimeter, and it was only because of our defense that we were able to separate a little bit."

Just about everybody in the Dunn Center wore red and cheered for Austin Peay. Phillips had her own group of supporters behind the bench: her husband, Michael, and a handful of Tennessee State's football coaches.

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