Saul Phillips Takes the Reigns of Northern State

Published: Jun. 11, 2019 at 3:50 PM CDT
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Saul Phillips was announced as the 22nd head men’s basketball coach in Northern State University program history earlier today at a press conference from the Barnett Center. Phillips comes to Northern State after Division I head coaching stops at North Dakota State University and Ohio University. He is just the sixth head coach for the Wolves since 1946.

“I am honored and thrilled to be the head coach at Northern State University,” explained Phillips. “Obviously the legacy I am following of Swisher, Wachs, Olson, Meyer, and Sather is humbling and it’s exciting. Taking over a program with this type of tradition is something that is unique and is kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I look forward to trying to advance the legacy of this program and very humbly serve as the head basketball coach here.”

Phillips takes the helm of the Northern State program after spending the past five seasons at Ohio University, and previous seven at North Dakota State. He went 81-77 overall leading the Bobcats and 134-84 with the Bison. Phillips will look to continue the strong tradition of Northern State basketball, as the Wolves have won back-to-back NSIC Conference Championships and are the NCAA Division II National Attendance leaders for the last 11 seasons, averaging well over 3,000 fans per game.

“We’re excited to welcome Saul and his family to Wolves Nation,” noted Dr. Tim Downs, Northern State President. “Saul has a long history of coaching great basketball teams and I believe he will pick up where Coach Sather left off. I expect the community of Aberdeen and the surrounding region to rally behind Saul and the team. Our university’s goal is to unleash the potential of our students, community and region. After visiting with Saul, I feel confident that he will continue Northern’s long tradition of winning basketball. Go Wolves!”

Phillips led the Ohio University Bobcats to the CBI semifinal round in his tenure with the program. OU saw 11 all-conference performances in five seasons under Phillips including one MAC Player of the Year honor (Antonio Campbell) and one MAC Freshman of the Year award (Jordan Dartis). Jaaron Simmons broke the single season Ohio University and MAC assist records in 2015-16, dishing out 275 on the year. Campbell was an Associated Press All-America selection following a stellar 2015-16 campaign, where the Bobcats tallied their best season under Phillips going 23-12 overall.

“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Saul and his wonderful family to NSU and Aberdeen,” added Josh Moon, Director of Athletics. “Coach Phillips has a proven track record of success as a head coach, winning at the highest levels of college basketball. He has coached and studied under some of the best coaches in the country and his diverse experience will be a tremendous asset to our program. He understands and respects the rich tradition of excellence that is Wolves basketball and his personality and approachability will help make for an easy transition to NSU and Aberdeen.”

In his seven seasons at North Dakota State, Phillips led the Bison to two Summit League Championships, two Summit League Tournament Championships, and two appearances in the NCAA Tournament. A total of 14 Bison earned all-conference accolades in his seven seasons, while four were named to the NABC All-District team and two tallied All-American accolades.

Phillips directed NDSU to their first Summit League crown and NCAA Division I Championship appearance in 2009; he was named the Summit League Coach of the Year and was one of ten finalists for the Hugh Durham Mid-Major Coach of the Year award. Senior Ben Woodside received Summit League Player of the Year honors that season, the first in NDSU program history. The 2013-14 campaign brought similar honors for the program winning their second Summit League Championship and a berth to the NCAA Tournament. In addition to being named the league coach of the year, senior Taylor Braun earned the league player of the year award.

The Bison advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament in his final season with the program, posting a 26-7 record overall, and 12-2 mark in Summit League action. The No. 12-seeded Bison knocked off No. 5-seeded Oklahoma in overtime, 80-75 in the Second Round. He left his legacy on the program as the fourth winningest coach in school history.

Phillips continued, “I think we have a group that can be successful, I think we have a lot of talent, I think I have to mesh myself with this group and be part of what they are doing. I am confident that my experiences and the people I have learned from hopefully can add some energy. But I do want to be perfectly clear that Paul and his predecessors have put this program in a spot where it is an honor to be taking it over and I will do everything I can to uphold what has been done here already.”

Phillips began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at NSIC counterpart Wayne State College as a member of Greg McDermott’s staff. From there he made assistant coaching stops at Lake Superior and Milwaukee, before taking the Director of Basketball Operations post at Wisconsin. With the Badgers, Phillips handled the day-to-day scheduling, coordinated travel, budgeting and on-campus recruiting for Bo Ryan's staff. Phillips then joined former Northern State assistant, Tim Miles as an assistant at NDSU. He spent three years on Miles’ staff before being elevated into his first head-coaching role in 2007.

A native of Reedsburg, Wis., Phillips graduated from Wisconsin-Platteville with a degree in business and psychology in 1996. He played basketball for four seasons at UWP under Bo Ryan and was captain of the Pioneers’ undefeated national championship team in 1995.

Phillips and his wife, Nicole, have one daughter, Jordan, and two sons, Charlie and Benjamin.

The Phillips File

• Career Record: 215-161 (.572)

• Head Coaching Stops: North Dakota State (134-84), Ohio University (81-77)

• Assistant Coaching Stops: Wayne State, Lake Superior, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, North Dakota State

• Five 20-plus win seasons ( 3 - NDSU, 2 - Ohio)

• NCAA Tournament Appearances: 2 (2009 & 2014 - NDSU)

• CBI Appearances: 2 (2013 - NDSU, 2016 - Ohio)

• 2009 & 2014 Summit League Coach of the Year

• 2009 & 2014 Summit League Conference Championships

• 2009 & 2014 Summit League Tournament Championships

• 2009 finalist for the Hugh Durham Mid-Major Coach of the Year award (NDSU)

• 25 All-Conference performers (11 - Ohio, 14 - NDSU)

• 4 Conference Players of the Year (including 1 freshman of the year)

• 7 All-District selections

• 3 NABC All-American honorees

What Others are Saying

“Being a proud graduate of Northern State University and having the opportunity to start my coaching career in a program with such great tradition, pride, and support makes it very special for me to see my good friend and colleague Saul Phillips as the new head basketball coach of the Wolves. Saul and I helped usher North Dakota State University into the Division 1 era with tremendous success. He built on that by winning two Summit League championships and taking the Bison to the NCAA tournament twice. He won at Ohio University as well as winning championships as a player at UW-Platteville under Hall of Fame coach Bo Ryan. Saul knows the recipe for success. Saul and Nicole along with their children, Jordan, Charlie, and Ben, will be a tremendous addition to Northern State University and Aberdeen. Congratulations to all.” – Tim Miles, Former NCAA Division I Head Coach at Nebraska, Colorado State, and North Dakota State

“Congrats to Northern State on a terrific hire! Saul is a connector. His players and the Aberdeen community are going to love him. He is the perfect coach to carry on the strong tradition of NSU basketball.” – Greg McDermott, Head Coach at Creighton University

“Saul Phillips is a tremendous basketball coach who has tremendous passion for the game, winning, and his athletes. He is not only a tremendous basketball coach but also, a tremendous person with a wonderful family. They will be a great addition to Northern and the Aberdeen community. He will continue the great tradition of Wolves basketball and the athletes will love playing for him.” – Gene Taylor, Director of Athletics at Kansas State University

“Northern State has made a great choice in Saul Phillips. As a player, he was a good listener and a fast learner; as a coach on my scout team staff, he was running the offense better than the opponents we were preparing for. He believes in player development and bringing people together. I look forward to the Wolves continued success.” - Bo Ryan, Former Head Coach at Wisconsin-Platteville, Milwaukee, and Wisconsin, and College Basketball Hall of Fame Member

"Saul Philips is a tremendous choice for Northern State. Philips has never forgotten where he came from and what made him a successful teacher and coach of the game. From Wisconsin to North Dakota to Ohio, Philips has always stayed true to himself. He is of high-character, energetic, engaging and treats his program like family. His infectious personality will create a healthy and welcoming atmosphere at Northern State. No job or task is below Saul. This should be a great fit.'' – Andy Katz,

“I was extremely excited to hear that Coach Phillips was coming to South Dakota. Coach will be a great fit for the Northern State basketball program and community of Aberdeen. I grew up going to the basketball camps at the university and it will be fun to have a familiar face on the bench. I am officially a Northern fan and I look forward to following the team for years to come.” – Mike Tveidt, Former NDSU Bison & Pierre, S.D. native

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