Wait over, Phipps gets his night

February 12, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

Jerry Phipps was on the verge of winning his 600th game on Jan. 7. It took more than a month to achieve the feat -- with nine straight losses in the interim -- but Phipps took the wait well.

"I figured maybe we'd squeeze one out somewhere," he said. "And if it didn't happen, well, then I'd be remembered for winning 599."

Phipps reached No. 600 Saturday night, when his Essex Community College team beat Potomac State, 98-88.

Essex will honor Phipps with a brief ceremony prior to tomorrow's 6 p.m. home game against Northern Virginia CC.

There were some extenuating circumstances for the January misery: Four starters were ruled ineligible for academic reasons at the semester break. Two of them were later cleared to play, though, after a misunderstanding was resolved.

"Actually, all things considered, the players I had left did a good job," said Phipps, 63, who has been coaching for 33 seasons. "They weren't bad players, they were just outmatched and overwhelmed.

"As for 600, I was resigned to the situation. It was a condition over which I had no control."

Phipps is used to being in control, starting with his first teams at City College in the 1960s. A graduate of Western Maryland, where he is a member of the school's hall of fame, he began coaching at City in 1960.

His second City team (1961-62) won the school's first Maryland Scholastic Association title since 1939 when it beat Douglass at Morgan State. During his tenure there, he had one stretch of 40 straight wins, a streak that eventually became 72 of 75 games.

He went on to achieve national recognition at Community College of Baltimore -- now Baltimore City Community College -- during the 1970s.

That was a period when Morgan State and Coppin State won national championships; Towson State and the University of Baltimore were ranked No. 1 and No. 4 in Division II the same season, 1976-77; and Phipps took two of his teams to National Junior College Athletic Association tournaments.

Roger Dickens played two years for Phipps at CCB, including a regional championship team in 1975.

Phipps' first shot at No. 600 came against Dickens, who is now coaching at Baltimore City Community College. BCCC beat Essex CC, 77-56, on Jan. 7.

"He always gets the best out of what he has; that's what makes him a great coach," Dickens said. "When you play against his teams, it's a war, a challenge."

Phipps retired as CCB coach in 1982, but he could not stay that way for long. A "desire to keep my hand in" sent the coach to Essex CC for a year, to Woodlawn High School for three years, and back to Essex. This is his third season back at Essex.

"It's different than it used to be," Phipps said. "Today, the kids don't have the same goals off the court they do on it."

Still, for Phipps, it has been a great run.

The Phipps record

Years ......... School .......... Record

1960-68 ........ City ........... 133-28

1968-82 .... CC of Baltimore .... 360-87

1984-85 ...... Essex CC ......... 18-13

1986-89 ...... Woodlawn HS ...... 61-9

1990-93 ...... Essex CC ......... 28-45

High school record: ...... ...... 194-37

Junior college record: ... ...... 406-145

Career record: ...... .... ...... 600-182

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