was born in Orange County, Texas on June
21, 1947 to Oail
Andrew (Bum) and Helen Phillips. Wade is
the eldest, then came five daughters:
DeeJean, Andrea, and Kimann.
They lived in an older home across the
street behind Nederland High School. The
high school building has long since been
torn down. So has that old house. Bum
was in his mid-20s and working full time
for Magnolia Oil Refinery after serving
in the Marines during World War II.
Wade's mother, Helen Wilson, hailed from
Orange and had family there, so it was
the most convenient place for Wade to
enter the world.
get to the roots of football coach Wade Phillips,
drive west of Houston for about an hour,
until you run plumb out of town. Take a
left onto a narrow state farm road
across from the only restaurant for
miles. Weave through a few miles of
ranch road, past herd after herd of
grazing cattle. Go over the one-lane
wooden bridge and follow the dirt road
to the end. Finally, with three ranch
dogs nipping at your feet, walk into the
metal-roofed arena where the cutting
horses are being trained. Now, this is
a portly man wearing a cowboy hat and
sunglasses sits atop a sorrel horse.
He's watching a rider teach a 3-year-old
chestnut, how to isolate a calf from the
herd and keep it separate for a few
minutes. This is high-stakes stuff in
Texas, and on this muggy morning the
horse and his rider are practicing with
a single confused calf. Because the calf
doesn't have a herd, the chestnut always
put the horse out here without the other
cattle so he learns to succeed," says
the man in the sunglasses. "You don't
want him to fail. You want him to win.
So you get him some confidence first."
Wade's father, Bum Phillips, 88, makes a
pause, "You know," he adds, "it's like
working with young players. Get 'em
thinking too much, give 'em too much
right away, and it confuses 'em. You've
got to get 'em some confidence. You've
got to train 'em right, teach 'em right.
I've always said. You show me a good
teacher and I'll show you a good coach.
Coaching is not how much you know. It's
how much you can get players to do."
Always On The Move
Looking back, what strikes Wade's
mother, Helen, most about her son is how
he never minded being a nomad. Not that
he had much choice. The Phillips family got a new lesson in Texas
geography almost every year, as Bum,
then a high school and college coach,
chased jobs from the Louisiana border to
New Mexico. 'They moved from Beaumont to
Nacogdoches to Nederland to College
Station to Jacksonville to Amarillo to
El Paso to Port Neches to Houston. "You
grew up pretty fast in this family,"
says Helen. "Nothing ever seemed to
bother Wade, not even the moves."
most abrupt move of all came when Wade
was in the ninth grade. The Phillips’s
were living in Amarillo at the time, and
he was going to a junior high school
right down the street from his house. He
was getting good grades. He was playing
all the sports. He had his first
girlfriend. One morning, the principal
sent for him, and on his way to the
office, Wade looked out the window and
saw a moving van in his driveway. His
father, he soon learned, had quit his
position at Amarillo High to take the
coaching job at UTEP. Within an hour,
Wade was off to El Paso; without even
getting a chance to say goodbye to his
girl. But he didn't protest. No tears.
Daddy would ask if we wanted to go to
the Dairy Queen, we wouldn't want to,"
says Wade, half in jest. "We'd be afraid
if we got in that car he'd move us
was boss, and no one questioned him. Not
even the family dog, Joe. One day, Bum
took Joe with him on a trip to water the
high school field. He told Joe to sit,
then watered the field and went home for
dinner. Sometime after dinner, Wade
asked, "Where's Joe?" and Bum got a
sinking feeling. They hurried back to
the field, and in the gathering dusk
there was Joe - still sitting.
idolized his father. Indeed, the only
time Bum ever took a strap to Wade was
when Wade was seven and tried to shave
himself with a straight razor, just like
Dad. Says Wade, "Wherever we lived,
everyone in town loved Dad. I realized
if I wanted to see much of him, I'd have
to go down to the field house."
began a youth of hanging around locker
rooms absorbing football knowledge from
his father and other coaches. Says Bum,
"Wade wasn't allowed to talk. He was
allowed to listen." So that's what he
did. When Wade was in the fifth grade,
Bum took him to the Gator Bowl, and he
heard Bear Bryant, then head coach at
Texas A&M, give a pre-game speech he
still remembers clearly. Around that
same time Wade, in his room late at
night, would take 11 pennies and line
them up in offensive formations and 11
nickels and line them up in defensive
formations. He would figure ways for the
pennies to beat the nickels, and ways
for the nickels to stop the pennies.
the time Wade was a senior at Port
Neches-Groves High, he was a two-way
starter at quarterback and linebacker
under his father. Wade's standout games
against rival Nederland impressed Neal
Morgan, one of Nederland's assistants.
Morgan had played for Bum at Nederland.
He chuckles in memory of a 1952 visit to
the Phillips home, with rambunctious
little Wade -age 5- running around the
house and climbing trees, barefooted and
shirtless, wearing only tight skivvies.
High School Sweethearts
Wade's wife Laurie says she knew better
than to date the star quarterback of
Port Neches-Groves High. The year was
1964. She was head cheerleader. The
quarterback's father, Bum, was Groves'
head coach. Laurie knew all about the
Phillipses and football because her
uncle coached with Bum. Her daddy,
Wesley "Stinky" Nunez, had played
"I said I was never going to marry a
football coach," Laurie says, "because
they were never at home and they didn't
make enough money." When Wade got a
football scholarship to the University
of Houston and Laurie enrolled at Lamar
University in Beaumont, they exchanged
letters but then lost contact for three
Bear Bryant offered
scholarship to Alabama. Houston coach
Bill Yeoman offered him a scholarship
too. But Yeoman also hired Bum as
defensive coordinator, so Wade naturally
was so sensitive about being accused of
favoritism that as Wade's sophomore
season approached, he resisted the pleas
of his staff to install Wade as a
starting linebacker and kept him on the
second team. But the coaches protested
to Yeoman, who moved Wade to first
string. He became a star. "I guess I was
pretty hard on him," says Bum. "The kid
he roomed with at Houston, Mike Simpson,
told me that a few years ago. I had Mike
as a free agent with the Oilers. When I
cut him, he told me, 'If I was Wade, I
could never have played for you:' I
asked him why. He said, 'Because you
were too hard on him.'"
Wade was a good athlete with a knack for
anticipating what opposing offenses were
going to do. But soon after Bum took an
assistant coaching position with the San
Diego Chargers, Wade realized his
aspiration to play in the NFL was a pipe
dream. Before his junior year at
Houston, the 220-pound Wade visited the
Chargers' training camp and saw
240-pound linebackers who were much
faster than him.
Neal Morgan followed Wade's playing
career at the University of Houston and
his 1969 stint as an unpaid Cougars
graduate assistant. Wade says Bum
suggested he call Morgan, adding, "Might
as well go someplace where they'll pay
you." By 1970, Wade had graduated from
the University of Houston and in need of
a coaching job, Morgan was now the head
coach at the old Orange Stark High
School, so he hired Wade.
West Orange-Stark High School
Stark High School had lost some 30
football games in a row when Morgan took
the job, but now he had an excellent
coaching staff, and Wade. Straight
out of college, Wade knew an astounding
amount of football and was a gigantic
help on defense. His attitude was great
and his approach to coaching reminded
Morgan of Bum.
Wade Phillips, Curly Hallman, Dexter
Bassinger and Andrew Hayes, helped
Morgan win the first game that year—
their first win in over three years —
and their players were so happy as they
walked home after the game they laughed
and sang. It was a long year, but they
did win three games.
Wade’s good nature and wonderful
experience and background with his dad
helped Morgan plan defenses, cope with
student riots (it was early integration)
and plow his way through that tough
That next spring, Bum came by the Stark
field house and told Morgan: “Thanks for
Wade coached at Stark from 1970 to 1972.
After graduating from Lamar University,
Laurie found Wade's letters. She was
engaged, and Wade "could have been
married for all I knew." Still, she
wrote to tell Wade she was moving to
"I started showing her around because I
knew all about Houston," Wade says.
"Then I started showing her around
Houston every day and every night.
"Finally, she called her fiancé and
said, 'There's something wrong here. I'm
enjoying spending time with this other
Wade and Laurie were married two months
"I'm prejudiced, but she's everything
you want in a mom and a wife," Wade
Wade often says he was better off
financially in Orange than at any other
time of his life. The Phillipses had yet
to have son Wesley or daughter Tracy, so
Wade's $16,000-a-year salary, buttressed
by Laurie's earnings as an elementary
school teacher, went a long way. They
lived in an apartment near the Orange
town circle. "We bought our car and
everything else with cash," Wade says.
"Nowadays, I've got credit cards and
mortgages and all that stuff."
Reuniting With Bum
In 1973 after his coaching job at Stark
High School, Wade
joined the Oklahoma State University
staff coaching linebackers for two
seasons where his father was defensive
coordinator. Wade was then hired to
coach the defensive line at Kansas State
in 1975, his last season coaching in the
Moving To The NFL
At age 28, Wade's professional coaching
career began in Houston in 1976 as the
linebackers coach again under his
father. That first season he worked with
Pro Bowlers like Bubba Smith, Elvin
Bethea and Curley Culp, who were older
than him. "I won't say we
looked down on Wade," says Bethea, "but I
will say we didn't have, shall we say,
confidence in him. At times, we took
full advantage of him."
One day in training camp, an exhausted
Bethea paused during a drill and shouted
at Bum, who was up in a coaching tower.
"You ought to be real proud of Wade,"
Bethea said sarcastically. "He's
coaching his little butt off down here."
While working along side Bum, the Oilers
introduced the 3-4 defense to the NFL.
After one year as the linebackers coach,
Wade moved to handling the defensive
line responsibilities from 1977 to 1980.
Hall of Fame defensive end Elvin Bethea
was a three time Pro Bowl selection
while working with Wade, while
linebacker Robert Brazile earned four of
his seven consecutive Pro Bowl
selections from 1977 to 1980.
First Head-Coaching Job: New Orleans
When he became a New Orleans Saint in
1981, it was as if he didn't have a
first name. Wade Phillips wasn't known
as Wade. He was "Son of Bum." He arrived
as part of a family package, for a
franchise owned by John Mecom Jr., a
franchise that became part of the NFL in
1967 and was still searching for its
first winning season. The Saints had the
NFL's worst-rated defense in 1980. Under
Wade, from 1981 through '85, New Orleans
finished among the five top-ranked teams
three times. Wade Phillips was Bum
Phillips' defensive coordinator. It's a
position Wade held until there were four
games remaining in the 1985 season. By
that time, the Saints were still without
a winning season. However, Mecom
had sold the team to Tom Benson. Bum had
announced his resignation as head coach,
and his son had been named interim head
coach, the first time such a passing of
the torch had taken place in the NFL.
Wade became the Saints' ninth head coach
in 19 years. Obviously, he'll never
forget the sadness on landing his first
job as an NFL head coach, a son
inheriting a challenge his father could
not handle. But he'll also never forget
the smiles that first game brought.
Wade Phillips had been handed a team
with a 4-8 record, and it went out and
destroyed the division-leading Los
Angeles Rams, 29-3, with nine sacks, one
interception, three fumbles,
surrendering a mere 167 yards.
"This was," deadpanned a rookie head
coach with a 1-0 record, "the biggest
victory of my career."
On his way to the Superdome that
morning, Wade ran into a stranger, the
shoeshine man at the Hyatt Hotel.
"Used to shine Bum's boots every
Sunday," the man said. "Guess I won't be
shining 'em anymore."
"It gave me a sinking feeling," Wade
His Saints lost the next three, closing
out a 5-11 season and the Phillips
Family Era in the Big Easy.
Philadelphia Eagles: 1986-1988
landed the job as defensive coordinator
of the Eagles. Working under
Philadelphia's rookie coach, Buddy Ryan,
who had been in charge of the Chicago
Bears' Super Bowl-winning defense. Wade
has said that his father and Ryan are
the two biggest influences he's had in
football. When he went to Philadelphia,
he was stepping out of his father's
shadow for the first time. He had spent
the previous 12 years working as an
assistant for Bum in Houston and New
Orleans. Wade's eyes lit up when asked
to reminisce about his Eagles tenure.
"Buddy Ryan, yeah," he said with a
smile. "I've got a whole book on that. A
whole chapter of the book anyway. Buddy
was very aggressive. Defensive-minded.
Very sharp on the 46 (defense) stuff,
all defenses really. I enjoyed being
around him. He was really a gifted mind
as far as defense was concerned and
hopefully I pulled some of those things
"I've added some stuff from everybody
I've been with. I went to Philadelphia
to work with Buddy Ryan because his 46
was the hot defense at the time. I got
an opportunity to learn Buddy's
philosophy. We still use some things
Even though Phillips now works
exclusively with three-man fronts, he
incorporates some of Ryan's principles,
particularly in the area of pass rushing
and how to break down pass protections.
A Defense Of His Own: Denver Broncos
never felt as if the Eagles defense was
really his. So when Broncos coach Dan
Reeves offered him the same job in
Denver, he took it. Reeves didn't know
Wade but had followed his career. As a
Cowboys assistant during the early
1970s, Mr. Reeves met Bum at a charity
golf tournament in Houston. Their
daughters became friends.
When Reeves interviewed for the head job
at New England, he learned Bum had
recommended him, even though they had
never worked together. "Well, I just
figured anybody who was a good family
man like you were and so nice to my
daughters had to be a good football
coach," Bum explained when Mr. Reeves
called to thank him.
For many of the same reasons, Reeves
returned the favor and hired Wade in
1989. Reeves was revamping his staff. He
wanted to elevate special teams coaches
Charlie Waters and Mike Nolan to
position coaches, even though Wade had
never worked with them.
"It so happened that our staff was about
to coach the Senior Bowl (an all-star
game for college seniors)," Reeves
recalled. "Wade said, 'Well, I can work
with them and tell you.'
"We finish the first practice and we're
walking off the field, and Wade said,
'They'll be fine.'"
the first time Wade, who was then 42,
was casting the shadow instead of living
in it. As his mother said, "Now people
have finally recognized Wade as his own
man." In the previous
four years, the Broncos, under defensive
coordinator Joe Collier, had allowed
20.6 points a game and 4.3 yards a
carry. They had made two Super Bowls in
that span but had yielded 81 points and
1,001 yards in the two games, which they
lost 39-20 to the New York Giants and
42-10 to the Washington Redskins. Reeves
had to do something, so he fired Collier
and hired Phillips.
Collier's defense was calculus," said
Denver linebacker Karl Mecklenburg. "Wade's
is algebra. Wade got the best players
and let them play."
Denver Broncos Head-Coach: 1993-1994
Wade was named Denver's head coach on
January 25, 1993 after serving as
defensive coordinator the previous four
seasons. In his first year as head
coach, future Hall of Fame quarterback
John Elway enjoyed the finest season of
his career to that point with
career-high figures for completions
(348), percentage (.632), yardage
(4,030) and his lowest single-season
interception total (10). Wade led the
1993 Broncos to a playoff berth, but
injuries decimated the club the
following season which resulted in a 7-9
record - Wade's only season with a
losing record in five years as a head
coach. Wade was released by the club
soon after the season finale and joined
Buffalo as defensive coordinator shortly
thereafter. The Broncos safety tandem of
Steve Atwater and Dennis Smith combined
for a total of eight Pro Bowl selections
under Wade's watch in Denver, while
defensive end Karl Mecklenburg earned
four trips to Hawaii.
Buffalo Bills 1995-2000 And The Music
In three seasons in Buffalo (1995-97)
before he became head coach, Wade
delivered solid returns as defensive
coordinator. In 1996, Buffalo's defense
allowed a league-low 22 touchdown passes
and 3.4 yards-per-carry, while ranking
fourth in sacks (48) and second in
yards-per-play (4.3) and opponent
completion percentage (.520). As the
defensive coordinator and head coach
with the Bills, Wade guided the stellar
careers of future Pro Football Hall of
Famers Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas.
During the 1998-2000 seasons as head
coach in Buffalo, the Bills compiled a
regular season record of 29-19. Wade
took the reigns after a disappointing
6-10 finish in 1997 and reversed the
team's fortunes by leading it to a 10-6
record and the playoffs in 1998. It was
the most successful campaign of any
first-year head coach in Bills history.
His 1999 team led the NFL in total
defense, went 11-5 and earned another
trip to the postseason.
The only trace of a frown flickers when
Laurie Phillips is asked about that
playoff game. It was a January 2000 loss
by his Buffalo Bills to Tennessee on a
disputed final-seconds kickoff return,
dubbed the Music City Miracle.
"Are you talking about the Music City
Mistake?" Laurie asks. "Yes, that was
horrible. It was devastating. It was,
'Can't we just do it again? Can't we
just take it back? Can't we fix it?'"
Wade insists today "doesn't have
anything to do with me." Indeed, the
stakes seem less personal to Wade than
to Laurie and their two grown children.
If only from a public-perception
standpoint, Wade's 0-3 playoff record at
that point was a thorn in the paw they
would give anything to extract.
They say they can't help but feel that
way because of the example he has set at
home and on the field throughout his
13-stop, 35-year NFL coaching career.
The Bills finished 8-8 in 2000 - his
last season in Buffalo. The Bills were
16-9 under Phillips in his three years
at the helm after the start of November.
2001: Short Hiatus
For the first time in 25 years, Wade
didn't have a coaching job in the NFL,
which was a very unusual situation that
he hadn't faced since he joined the
Oilers in 1976. It was a time to rest
and spend time with the family, watch
sports and relax. Asked about what that
year was like, Wade says: "I saw my son
Wes play QB at UTEP his senior year that
However, Wade's reputation as one of the
most brilliant defensive minds in the
NFL wasn't going to allow the break last
long. The following year he moved to
Atlanta to resume his coaching career in
the NFL as the defensive coordinator of
Atlanta Falcons 2002-2003
Wade's defense in Atlanta in 2002
mastered the big play. The team finished
with 47 sacks, second-most in team
history and tied for fourth in the NFL.
They also had 39 takeaways - second in
the league - including 24 interceptions
- fourth in the league.
At the end of his two-year term as
defensive coordinator in Atlanta, he
served as the interim head coach for the
Falcons final three games of the 2003
season after Dan Reeves was released
from his contract on December 10.
Phillips posted a record of 2-1 as
Atlanta's head coach, highlighted by a
30-28 victory at Tampa Bay that knocked
the defending Super Bowl champions out
of playoff contention.
Wade has the distinction of having been
replaced by a father and a son from two
head coaching positions – by Jim Mora at
the New Orleans Saints and by Jim Mora
Jr. at the Atlanta Falcons. He also has
twice replaced Dan Reeves as a head
San Diego Chargers 2004-2006
After implementing his 3-4 defensive
scheme, Wade directed a unit that
improved each season, moving from 18th
in the NFL in total defense in his first
season to 13th in 2005 and then 10th in
2006. His 2005 unit was the NFL's
stingiest against the run with a league
leading average of 84.3 yards-per-game
allowed on the ground. In his first year
in San Diego, the Chargers were even
stingier, allowing just 81.7 rushing
yards-per-game to rank third in the
The Chargers aggressive defense also
cranked out a league-high 61 sacks in
2006, the second-most in club history.
It was the second straight year the
defense had shown improvement in that
category, going from 29 sacks in 2004 to
46 sacks in 2005 to the breakout year in
2006. Two-time Pro Bowl linebacker
Shawne Merriman was the leader of that
group, topping the NFL with 17 sacks
When the Chargers won the AFC West and
qualified for the playoffs in 2004 on
the heels of a 4-12 season in 2003, Wade
kept his streak intact of helping to
turn teams with non-winning records into
playoff participants the following year.
Dallas Cowboys 2007-201: Coaching
On Thursday, February 8, 2007, Wade
Phillips sat inside Jerry Jones'
Highland Park home for roughly an hour,
noshing on tortilla soup, lobster tacos
and hamburgers after a flight on a
private jet from San Diego earlier in
Quietly, Wade and the Cowboys owner
moved to a private room, where the two
hammered out the final details of a
contract that made Wade the seventh
coach in franchise history.
Eighteen days after Bill Parcells
surprised the organization with his
resignation, an emotional Jones, who
teared up as he did when Michael Irvin
earned induction into the Pro Football
Hall of Fame, had found his coach.
"We needed to get it right," Jones said,
"and in my mind, we got it right."
The Cowboys interviewed 10 candidates,
with talks taking nearly 90 hours to
complete, but Jones' mind kept coming
back to Wade, the first coach to meet
with him who did not have a link to the
team's present or past.
With a team that made the playoffs in
2006 and acquired players specifically
for its 3-4 defensive scheme, Jones felt
Wade' defensive background and his 48-39
regular-season record as a head coach in
four stops was the correct choice over
former Cowboys offensive coordinator
"You ever read about the frog who
dreamed of being king and became one?"
said Wade, who signed a three-year
contract with an option for a fourth,
averaging about $3 million a year.
"Well, I was a high school coach in
Texas, and now I'm head coach of the
Dallas Cowboys, so my story is the same
In the 2007 NFL Playoffs, Wade led the
Cowboys to another playoff loss, making
his playoff record 0–4. The Cowboys
failed to make the playoffs in 2008, as
the season ended with a 44–6 loss to the
Philadelphia Eagles, preventing a wild
card playoff berth.
Prior to the 2009 season, Wade also took
over as defensive coordinator, replacing
the fired Brian Stewart. Wade called
defensive plays for the final 10 games
of the 2008 season after Stewart was
stripped of the responsibilities. In the
2009-10 playoffs, Wade's Cowboys
defeated the Eagles in the wild card
round, ending the club's 12 year playoff
win drought (6 games total, Wade was
only coach for one of those losses) and
earning Wade his first playoff win.
On January 21, 2010, Wade
signed a contract extension through the
2011 season. However, he was fired by
the Cowboys on November 8, 2010
following the second worst start in
franchise history (one win in their
first eight games) punctuated by a 45–7
loss to the Green Bay Packers.
His overall record with the Cowboys was
In his final statement as the Dallas
Cowboys Head Coach, Wade wrote: "I am
disappointed in the results of this season
to this point, but I am also very proud of
what our team and our players accomplished
in the previous three years. In good times
and difficult times, our players stuck
together and never lost hold of their belief
in each other and the strong team bond that
they have shared. Family and coaching
football have always defined my life and I
will always be grateful for my experiences
here with the Dallas Cowboys."
Back In Houston
Wade was named Texans defensive
coordinator on January 5, 2011. Wade
Phillips doesn’t expect to be a head
coach again, and that’s fine. He’s happy
to finally be working close to where he
grew up. "It’s perception, sometimes,
more than reality," Wade said. "I’ve won
a lot of games in this league and I have
a really high winning percentage. I
don’t see me being a head coach again,
because of the perception overall. When
you get fired, it’s usually, ’Hey, he
was fired because he can’t win,"’
Phillips said. "It wasn’t ’cause I
couldn’t win. I couldn’t win enough."
"Houston is special to me," Wade
continues. "My first NFL coaching job
was here. At that time, when we were in
the playoffs every year and going to the
AFC championship. I thought I was a
great coach and that we’d be here the
whole time. It didn’t work out that way.
I went 360 (degrees) and came back and
ended right where I wanted to be. And
Phillips earned recognition as the PFW/PFWA
Assistant Coach of the Year in 2011
after the Texans’ defense finished
second in the NFL with 285.7 yards
allowed per game. Phillips installed a
3-4 scheme that yielded the
third-largest single-year improvement
since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, flipping
a unit that gave up 379.6 yards per game
and ranked 31st in the NFL in 2010.
Houston allowed the fourth-fewest points
in the league in 2011 (compared to
fourth most in 2010) the second-fewest
yards allowed (third-most in 2010) and
third-fewest yards per play (4.8,
compared to 6.0, second-worst in 2010).
On Jan. 27, 2012, he was also named Sporting
News 2011 NFL Coordinator of the Year.
In his second season, the 2012 Texans
defense, led by Associated Press
Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt,
ranked in the League’s top ten in total
defense, rushing defense, scoring
defense, sacks and third-down defense.
The second-year defensive end put
together what Phillips called simply the
“best season ever,” leading the NFL with
20.5 sacks, batting down 16 passes,
forcing four fumbles and recovering two
en route to becoming the franchise’s
first-ever player of the year award
On November 3, 2013, Texans Head Coach
Gary Kubiak collapsed at the end of the
first half of the Texans-Colts game, he
was then hospitalized at a local
hospital. In Kubiak's absence, Phillips
was given the head coaching duties as
the acting head coach for the remainder
of the game. On November 6, 2013, the
Texans, and Kubiak decided to
temporarily hand Phillips the head
coaching duties, and named him the
interim head coach until Kubiak was
medically cleared to return. Exactly one
month later, Kubiak was fired after his
team had lost 11 games in a row. Once
again, Phillips served as interim head
coach for the Texans until the end of
A Family Man
As Laurie suspected four decades ago,
Wade has been gone a lot. But he makes
up for it in ways besides his NFL
When he was the defensive line coach at
the University of Kansas in 1975, he was
a "golfaholic." Laurie mentioned that she
was home with baby Tracy every weekend
while Wade played. Message received.
Wade became an occasional golfer.
He gave up the sport when Tracy started
performing in recitals at age 3. Later,
he attended as many of younger child
Wes' youth and high school games as
"I always remember him being there when
things were important," says Tracy, who
lives in Hollywood and played a belly
dancer in the movie Charlie Wilson's
When the kids were young, Wade and
Laurie started a Friday date-night
tradition. Typically, they go to dinner
or a movie.
In New Orleans in the early 1980s,
Laurie coaxed Wade into a country and
Western dance class. He earned a plaque
for most improved. At the Cowboys'
Christmas party, they turned heads with
"He even goes to chick flicks with me,"
she says with a laugh. "And then he gets
in there and gripes, 'I'm probably the
only guy in here.' "
The coach earns no husband points,
however, for household repairs. Let's
just say there is no chance of him
fixing that busted doorbell in their
I'm not a Mr. Fixit around the house,
for sure," Wade says. "I can't do
plumbing or electrical or none of that
Mr. Nice Guy
"I don't know anybody who doesn't like
Wade Phillips," says former NFL coach
Dan Reeves. "He makes everyone around
him comfortable, from the owner right
down to the janitor."
"The old stereotype is that you've got
to get in a guy's face to get the most
out of him," Wade says. "I've always
believed that good guys, or nice guys,
can finish first."
"He's the most likable coach in the
NFL," said Charlie Waters, who remained
on the Broncos' staff when Wade
succeeded Dan Reeves in 1993. "People
love to work and play for Wade. He has
high expectations, but he cuts through
the mess. There's a lot of common sense
working there with Wade."
By Wade's definition, football teams are
much like families. The Phillips
coaching family is his blueprint. "You
like for them to care about each other
like you do in a family," he says, "and
take up for each other. What family
means is trust, loyalty and common
Wade is a patient communicator.
"When I was growing up, people thought
bitching was coaching," says Wade. "But
players eventually turn off the guys who
yell and scream. My father once told me,
'Don't coach the way you were coached.
Coach the way you are.' I don't believe
in coaching by fear. I believe in
coaching by teaching."
When asked if he as any advice for the
boy, Bum Phillips works
his chaw and laughs. "Wade knows
everything I know, plus everything he's
learned from everybody else," he says.
"Hell, if I knew anything to tell him,
I'd already have told him."