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At 76, Wade Phillips hopes to get elusive first title as a head coach in Sunday's UFL Championship

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At 76, Wade Phillips hopes to get elusive first title as a head coach in Sunday's UFL Championship
Sport

Sport

At 76, Wade Phillips hopes to get elusive first title as a head coach in Sunday's UFL Championship

2024-06-15 18:10 Last Updated At:18:20

Wade Phillips has long been considered one of the best defensive coordinators in pro football.

His track record as a head coach though, especially when it comes to the postseason, hasn't been looked on as kindly.

However, Phillips has a chance to get an elusive championship ring as a head coach on Sunday in St. Louis when his San Antonio Brahmas take on the Birmingham Stallions in the first UFL Championship Game.

“Obviously, it would be great. I'd feel great for the players. They deserve where they are now,” Phillips said. “I think they deserve a championship, but they have to play and win it.”

A UFL title would also be a great early birthday present for Phillips, who turns 77 on Friday. When Phillips was fired as the Los Angeles Rams' defensive coordinator after the 2019 season, many thought that might be the end of his coaching career that has spanned seven decades and started when he was a graduate assistant at the University of Houston in 1969.

Phillips returned to coach Houston's XFL franchise in 2023. The Roughnecks were 7-3 and made the playoffs, but lost to eventual champion Arlington in the South Division final.

After the USFL and XFL merged, Phillips moved over to San Antonio this season. Not much was expected though, especially with 30 new players on the roster. The Brahmas bucked the odds and went 7-3 in the regular season. Last week, they upset the favored St. Louis Battlehawks in the XFL Conference final and advanced to the championship game.

“I believe we’ve been the underdogs in almost every game. So, we like playing that role,” Phillips said.

Phillips had an 82-64 regular-season NFL record with six teams, but was 1-5 in the playoffs. He won a Super Bowl ring as Denver's defensive coordinator during the 2015 season when the Broncos beat Carolina in Super Bowl 50.

While Phillips enjoyed plenty of attention coaching the Dallas Cowboys for three-plus seasons, he said there isn't that much difference coaching the Brahmas.

Well, there is one major difference.

“Money. Yeah. Jerry paid me a lot more money,” Phillips said with a smile. "But it's not different. It's organization and when you're the head coach everything comes to you.

“It’s coaching. That’s what I do. I'm probably not good at anything else. I like being around the players, the strategy of the game, and, and the reward for winning is a neat feeling.”

Skip Holtz — who is trying to lead Birmingham to its third straight spring league title — has also experienced a career renaissance of his own after 17 seasons as a college head coach. Holtz and Phillips did not have any interactions before the UFL, but Holtz said he has looked up to Phillips.

“It is very difficult to be a head football coach. I think it’s even more difficult to be a head football coach with his type of length and tenure. With the success that he’s had year in and year out. I think he, he does a great job. He’s done it with character,” Holtz said.

Over the past three seasons, the Stallions are 32-4 in the regular season and playoffs. Their last loss came to the Brahmas on May 25 in San Antonio.

Birmingham has the league's top offense, averaging 347.5 yards and 26.5 points per game. Quarterback Adrian Martinez was named the UFL's Most Valuable Player, but Matt Corral came in during the second half of last week's USFL Conference final and led the Stallions to a 31-18 victory.

San Antonio had the UFL's best defense (256.7 yards per game) and allowed only 15.3 points per game.

Whatever the result of Sunday's game, Phillips has indicated he would like to return next season.

“I understand my age is a factor, but as long as I'm healthy and can contribute, which I think I have. I don't set a time limit, but I get older every day. I know that,” he said.

AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

FILE - Birmingham Stallions head coach Skip Holtz reacts to a play during the second half of a football game Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Birmingham, Ala. San Antonio Brahmas coach Wade Phillips can win an elusive championship as a head coach when the UFL has their title game on Sunday in St. Louis. Phillips and the Brahmas will take on the Birmingham Stallions. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

FILE - Birmingham Stallions head coach Skip Holtz reacts to a play during the second half of a football game Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Birmingham, Ala. San Antonio Brahmas coach Wade Phillips can win an elusive championship as a head coach when the UFL has their title game on Sunday in St. Louis. Phillips and the Brahmas will take on the Birmingham Stallions. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

FILE - Birmingham Stallions head coach Skip Holtz celebrates with the trophy after the Birmingham Stallions defeated the Philadelphia Stars 33-30 in a USFL football game for the league championship, Sunday, July 3, 2022, in Canton, Ohio. San Antonio Brahmas coach Wade Phillips can win an elusive championship as a head coach when the UFL has their title game on Sunday in St. Louis. Phillips and the Brahmas will take on the Birmingham Stallions. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

FILE - Birmingham Stallions head coach Skip Holtz celebrates with the trophy after the Birmingham Stallions defeated the Philadelphia Stars 33-30 in a USFL football game for the league championship, Sunday, July 3, 2022, in Canton, Ohio. San Antonio Brahmas coach Wade Phillips can win an elusive championship as a head coach when the UFL has their title game on Sunday in St. Louis. Phillips and the Brahmas will take on the Birmingham Stallions. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

In a photo provided by the San Antonio Brahmas, San Antonio Brahmas coach Wade Phillips walks the sideline during the team's UFL football game against the Michigan Panthers at the Alamodome in San Antonio, April 20, 2023. Phillips is hoping to win his first championship as a head coach Sunday, June 16, 2024, when the Brahmas take on the Birmingham Stallions in the UFL Championship game in St. Louis. (Alonso Ramirez III/San Antonio Brahmas via AP)

In a photo provided by the San Antonio Brahmas, San Antonio Brahmas coach Wade Phillips walks the sideline during the team's UFL football game against the Michigan Panthers at the Alamodome in San Antonio, April 20, 2023. Phillips is hoping to win his first championship as a head coach Sunday, June 16, 2024, when the Brahmas take on the Birmingham Stallions in the UFL Championship game in St. Louis. (Alonso Ramirez III/San Antonio Brahmas via AP)

The Republican National Convention culminates Thursday with former President Donald Trump expected to accept the party’s presidential nomination, achieving a comeback four years in the making and anticipated even more in the past week in light of Saturday’s assassination attempt.

He is expected to accept his third consecutive party nod in prime time before thousands of supporters at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. Trump's running mate JD Vance addressed the same crowd on Wednesday.

Trump’s election opponent, President Joe Biden, tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling Wednesday in Las Vegas and is experiencing “mild symptoms” including “general malaise” from the infection, the White House said.

Follow the AP’s Election-2024 coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024

Here's the Latest:

The Republican National Convention culminates Thursday with former President Donald Trump expected to accept the party’s presidential nomination, achieving a comeback four years in the making and anticipated even more in the past week in light of Saturday’s assassination attempt.

Trump is expected to accept his third consecutive party nod in prime time before thousands of supporters at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

How he approaches the speech in light of his injury at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, will be closely watched.

▶ Here’s what to know about Trump’s speech and the final day of the convention

Hundreds of people who gathered to remember the former fire chief fatally shot at a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump were urged to find “unity” as the area in rural Pennsylvania sought to recover from the assassination attempt.

Wednesday’s public event was the first of two organized to memorialize and celebrate Corey Comperatore’s life. The second, a visitation for friends, was planned for Thursday at Laube Hall in Freeport.

Outside Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, where the vigil was held for Comperatore, a sign read: “Rest in Peace Corey, Thank You For Your Service,” with the logo of his fire company.

On the rural road to the auto racing track — lined with cornfields, churches and industrial plants — a sign outside a local credit union read: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Comperatore family.”

▶ Read more about the vigil for Corey Comperatore

A former president is shot, the gunman quickly neutralized, and all of it is caught on camera. But for those who don’t believe their eyes, that’s just the start of the story.

For some supporters of former President Donald Trump, the failure of the Secret Service to prevent the attempted assassination points to a conspiracy orchestrated by President Joe Biden. For some of Trump’s critics, however, the details of the shooting don’t add up. They wonder if Trump somehow staged the whole thing.

Two dueling conspiracy theories are taking root online following Trump’s attempted assassination, one for each end of America’s polarized political spectrum. In this split-screen republic, Americans are increasingly choosing their own reality, at the expense of a shared understanding of the facts.

“One screen, two movies,” is how Ron Bassilian describes the online reaction to Saturday’s shooting. Bassilian is a prolific user of social media and has used X to broadcast his conjecture about the shooting. “People have their beliefs, and they’re going to come up with theories that fit their beliefs.”

▶ Read more about the conspiracy theories surrounding the Trump shooting

Relatives of some of the 13 American service members killed during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan appeared on stage at the Republican National Convention Wednesday in an emotional moment that revived one of the low points of President Joe Biden’s presidency.

Many of the Gold Star families have criticized Biden for never publicly naming their loved ones. On stage Wednesday, one of the family members named each of the 13 service members, and the crowd echoed back each name as it was read aloud.

“Joe Biden has refused to recognize their sacrifice,” Christy Shamblin, the mother-in-law of Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, told the crowd. “Donald Trump knew all of our children’s names. He knew all of their stories.”

The crowd chanted “Never forget!” and “U.S.A.!” as Trump and the entire convention hall stood.

▶ Read more about the Gold Star families featured at the RNC

JD Vance introduced himself to a national audience Wednesday after being chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate, sharing the story of his hardscrabble upbringing and making the case that his party best understands the challenges facing struggling Americans.

Speaking to a packed arena at the Republican National Convention, the Ohio senator cast himself as a fighter for a forgotten working class, making a direct appeal to the Rust Belt voters who helped drive Trump’s surprise 2016 victory and voicing their anger and frustration.

The 39-year-old Ohio senator is a relative political unknown, having served in the Senate for less than two years. He rapidly morphed in recent years from a bitter critic of the former president to an aggressive defender and is now positioned to become the future leader of the party and the torch-bearer of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” political movement.

The first millennial to join the top of a major party ticket, Vance enters the race as questions about the age of the men at the top — 78-year-old Trump and 81-year-old President Joe Biden — have been high on the list of voters’ concerns. He also joins Trump after an assassination attempt against the former president — in which Trump came perhaps millimeters from death or serious injury — underscoring the importance of a potential successor.

▶ Read more about Vance’s RNC speech

The third nights of conventions are traditionally about the running mate and how they round out a presidential ticket. Certainly, Vance has become a presence at the convention — mentions from the podium, his name now on signs together with Trump, appearances with the former president on the first two nights of the convention.

But Trump is a dominant figure — even when measured against other U.S. presidents and world leaders. Pick any speaker Wednesday and their most passionate pitches were not about “Donald Trump and JD Vance.” They were about Trump.

“This is a man I know and the president we need for four more years,” said Kellyanne Conway, a former Trump adviser. “He will always stand up for you.”

Trump’s former White House physician, Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas, called Trump “the greatest president this country has ever had” and “a president who even took a bullet for our country.”

It’s Trump’s party and his alone. No running mate can change that, especially not a freshman senator who has yet to celebrate his 40th birthday.

▶ Read the AP’s takeaways from night 3 of the RNC.

The convention is gaveling out after a benediction from Rev. Packy Thompson of Houma, Lousiana.

Thompson thanked God for Trump. “I also thank you for protecting him from the evil that was perpetrated last Saturday,” he said.

And the gathering is adjourned until Thursday.

“Tonight, J.D. Vance, the poster boy for Project 2025, took center stage. But it’s working families and the middle class who will suffer if he’s allowed to stay there,” Michael Tyler, Biden campaign communication director, said.

“Backed by Silicon Valley and the billionaires who bought his vice presidential selection, Vance is Project 2025 in human form – an agenda that puts extremism and the ultra wealthy over our democracy.”

Vance made a pledge to voters: “I pledge to every American, no matter your party, I will give you everything I have.”

He added, “To serve you and to make this country a place where every dream you have for yourself, your family and your country will be possible once again.”

After the speech, Vance’s extended family flooded the stage to an unusual song for a Republican convention – Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.”

The song became a political staple in 1992 when a very different young politician from a humble background ran for national office. That was Bill Clinton, who is, of course, a Democrat.

Law enforcement officers gather at campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. Trump's campaign said in a statement that the former president was "fine" after a shooting at his rally in Butler (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Law enforcement officers gather at campaign rally site for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is empty Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. Trump's campaign said in a statement that the former president was "fine" after a shooting at his rally in Butler (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surround by U.S. Secret Service agents at a campaign rally, Saturday, July 13, 2024, in Butler, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Wisconsin Carlos Jimenez dresses up as Captain America at the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Wisconsin Carlos Jimenez dresses up as Captain America at the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, speaks during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, speaks during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump's shadow is seen as he departs the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump's shadow is seen as he departs the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. JD Vance speaks during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. JD Vance speaks during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump departs after the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump departs after the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A general view during rehearsals at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

A general view during rehearsals at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, gestures to the crowd after speaking at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, gestures to the crowd after speaking at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, speaks at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, speaks at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. JD Vance and wife Usha Chilukuri Vance acknowledge the crowd during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. JD Vance and wife Usha Chilukuri Vance acknowledge the crowd during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

President Joe Biden and Maritza Rodriguez, Biden for President Latina adviser, greets patrons at Linda Michoacan Mexican Restaurant, during a stop in Las Vegas, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden and Maritza Rodriguez, Biden for President Latina adviser, greets patrons at Linda Michoacan Mexican Restaurant, during a stop in Las Vegas, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden walks up the steps of Air Force One at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. Biden has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a speaker at the UnidosUS annual conference broadcast on the White House's YouTube channel. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden walks up the steps of Air Force One at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. Biden has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a speaker at the UnidosUS annual conference broadcast on the White House's YouTube channel. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump reacts during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump reacts during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump talks to Sen. Marco Rubio during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump talks to Sen. Marco Rubio during the Republican National Convention Wednesday, July 17, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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