LOCUST GROVE — The time for tough decisions are looming, and in a time when many coaches make their decisions to stay or leave, Locust Grove’s Stephen Phillips is stepping down.
The decision to step down was a tough one for him, but it’s a decision he had to make.
Looking back, it’s been 15 years since Phillips began coaching in Henry County, and in that time Locust Grove has won five straight region titles, snagged a GHSA state title and has been no lower than Elite Eight.
He has seen the likes of Nolan Crisp head to college and Ethan Lindow get drafted and a plethora of achievements that set the bar for the next coach.
But that’s not necessarily the legacy he wants to leave. Phillips wants to leave his mark on Locust Grove in a different way.
“I hope that my legacy was that of a coach that loved God first and foremost and tried every day to walk the walk,” Phillips said. “God loves people, and that’s what I tried to do every day I stepped on the field. I want whoever comes in to do the same. We have good kids here at LG that work hard and want to be successful. (You) just have to show them that no matter the circumstances, you’re going to be there for them.”
However, all good things come to an end, and Phillips’ decision to hang it up comes with the benefit of spending more time with his family.
“Right now, my family comes first,” Phillips said. “My son Kellen will be a junior and Carter, my youngest, moves to middle school. I need to be a daddy for a while. My wife has only known me as a coach, and she has sacrificed more than anybody. Because of the success we have had, she has had to do a lot by herself for five months out of the year.”
Phillips has an impressive record of 281-146-1, but when asked about which accomplishment stands out most in his career, Phillips answered in the way that’s been the embodiment of who he is.
“For me, coaching has never been about winning and losing,” Phillips said. “It’s been about the relationships I built with my players. More than anything I will cherish those. The rings and trophies will tarnish, but I pray that those relationships will last forever.”
Don’t write Phillips off yet, though. He’s not leaving the Locust Grove area completely. He’ll retain his athletic director duties. He’s just clearing off the plate a bit and hopes to continue to watch the young players he’s leaving behind grow.
“Baseball is in my blood,” Phillips said. “I can’t get too far away. I hope whoever we bring in will let me scratch that itch when I need to. I will continue to build relationships in the school building like I always have and be there to pull for them when they compete.”
The charismatic and polarizing Phillips does have one more thing he wants to say, and that’s a simple thank you.
“I just want to say thank you to every single person that coached alongside me, the administration here, the players and the community,” Phillips said. “When I started this program 10 years ago, I knew it could be special because of the community. I hope I made it something the community of Locust Grove could be proud of.”