O.A. “Bum” Phillips died at the age of 90 at his Goliad County ranch after a lengthy illness.
Phillips’ wife, Debbie, announced her husband’s passing on her Facebook page Friday night.
“Beloved, Bum has been ill a long, long time,” Debbie Phillips wrote. “We were praying for God to take him home and perform the greatest healing of all. He answered our prayers last night and took Bum to the greenest pastures where he is riding a handsome grey horse and laughing joyfully with all of his loved ones who have gone on before him. Bum would want you to know that he loved you and always told everyone that anyone you love never dies because you have them in your heart always. May God bless you all.”
Phillips’ son, Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, had been making frequent trips from Houston to Goliad to be his father over recent weeks.
“Bum is gone to Heaven-loved and will be missed by all - great Dad, Coach and Christian,” Wade Phillips tweeted Friday night.
Goliad High School head football coach and athletic director, John Mares, was a neighbor to the Phillips. He owns a ranch near the Phillips’ ranch and said Bum Phillips often visited the high school fieldhouse to talk football.
“He would come in and talk to the kids,” Mares said. “He would come out and sit in his truck and watch us practice. He’d come in during some of our coaches’ meetings. His knowledge of the game was immense.”
Phillips was best known as the head coach of the Houston Oilers during the NFL franchise’s 1975-80 “Luv Ya Blue” era. He guided two Houston teams to the AFC Championship game.
He was fired by Oilers owner Bud Adams after the 1980 AFC title game loss to Pittsburgh and became the head coach of the New Orleans Saints during the 1981-85 seasons.
Phillips was known for his one-liners. When asked about Oilers Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell, Phillips said, “I don’t know if he’s in a class by himself, but I do know that when that class gets together, it sure don’t take long to call the roll.”
Phillips’ nickname “Bum” came from his younger sister, who couldn’t pronounce “brother.”
Phillips was born in 1923 in Orange. He played football for Lamar Junior College before joining the Marines during World War II. He resumed his college football career at Stephen F. Austin, where he graduated with a degree in education in 1949.
He coached high school and college football, assisting under Paul “Bear” Bryant at Texas A&M and Bill Yeoman at Houston before accepting an assistant position under Sid Gillman for the AFL San Diego Chargers.
Gillman became head coach of the Oilers in 1974 and brought Phillips with him. Phillips took over as Houston’s head coach and general manager a year after Gillman’s resignation.
In 1996, he and his wife, Debbie, moved to Goliad County, where he trained cutting horses. Phillips and his wife created Bum Phillips Charities and began constructing a home for deaf children at the ranch in 2012.
In lieu of flowers, the Phillips family asks for donations to the Bum Phillips Charities at 2981 S. Riverdale Lane, Goliad, TX 77963.
Funeral services will be private, but two public memorial services have been scheduled. The first will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Goliad High School auditorium. The second memorial service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Houston’s Lakewood Church.