Terry Don Phillips Interview (Part II)

CLEMSON - CUTigers recently sat down for a lengthy one-on-one interview with Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips. Part two of the series? Dabo Swinney and the football program.

Midway through the 2008 season, Clemson parted ways with then head coach Tommy Bowden. Swinney, the wide receivers coach, was named interim head coach.

The interim tag was lifted in December of that year and Swinney was named head coach. In 2009, he led Clemson to a 9-5 and the school's first-ever appearance in the ACC Championship game.

A year later, the Tigers went 6-7. The season ended with a second-consecutive loss to South Carolina and a defeat by South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

In part two of the CUTigers.com sit down with Phillips, he talks about Swinney and the direction of the football program.

At the ACC Football Kickoff, Dalton Freeman and Brandon Thompson were asked about Dabo's job security. They mentioned a radio interview where you expressed your support for him, and they were happy to hear it. Is it important for players to understand that you support him?
Phillips: Actually, I think Tim [Bourret] briefed them, to make sure that they know what my position is. Yes, I believe in Dabo. I firmly support him. The interesting thing, and I guess it's the day and age we live in, I've told people that sometimes I feel like I work in a different paradigm when it comes to coaches. You hire a coach because you think a coach can get the job done. You don't hire a coach just to hire a coach. You want to give them enough time to show exactly what they can do.

The example I've got, and I use it all the time. It makes my point very well. [It] is Frank Beamer. When I first met Frank, he was an assistant coach at Radford High School. I recruited Radford when I was coaching the defensive line up at Virginia Tech, so I've known Frank a long time. Of course, I've still got a lot of friends at Virginia Tech, having worked and coached there for several years. It's where I went to graduate school, so I've always stayed in close contact. His first six years were ugly. As a matter of fact, I'm writing a little something on it now. He lost 20 more games than he won in his first six years.

"Nowadays, if you don't have the quick fix, you get on the hot seat. It's just wrong. It's just wrong. To build a program, it is a process."

I hope Dabo will replace him in this category. But, in my opinion, Frank is the preeminent coach in the ACC and he's a preeminent coach, nationally. What is very evident at Virginia Tech, they believed in him. They gave them enough time to get the job done. Nowadays, if you don't have the quick fix, you get on the hot seat. It's just wrong. It's just wrong. To build a program, it is a process. It takes time to put in your philosophy and how you're going to run the program, because most of the kids there have probably operated under a different philosophy, a different way of doing things. You just don't turn things, mentally, around over night. You might have a great year, but, with regard to all the nuts and bolts to a program, it's not an overnight process. I think the people at Virginia Tech did the right thing. They had a coach they believed in and they hung with him for a long time. When it turned, it turned. Frank's had a great run, and he's a great head coach. His first six years weren't very great, that's for sure.

That's obviously the difference between now and back then.
Phillips: The process and everything is still the same, as far as building a program. There are some fundamentals in developing programs that have changed. What's changed is the media -- the social media, the Internet, the blogs and talk radio. That's what's changed. The process of building a program has not changed.

It's the scrutiny. The turnaround, right now.
Phillips: No question about it. The bottom line, I believe in Dabo. I believe he's a great fit for the university. He's got a solid background in football. He's had an opportunity to be around some excellent coaches -- that influence. I like the fact that he's a young man who's seen adversity, both personally and professionally. That's invaluable experience. He's got great integrity. He's a hard worker. I think he's shown that he's an excellent recruiter. I'm excited about the staff that he's pulled together, the changes that he's made. There's a growing process. When I made the recommendation for us to make the offer to Dabo, I made a statement that there is a learning curve. You just don't step into a head coach's role and have all the answers. Old, established head coaches will tell you that they don't have all the answers. Having been in athletics my entire career, whether as a player, a coach or administrator, I think I do understand the process. I think I do understand that you have to weather tough storms.

What makes it more difficult nowadays is that everybody has got their opinion, and they've got a forum for that opinion. Whether they're well-versed or not, I don't know. A lot of people that express their opinion, they probably haven't played or coached, or probably haven't been part of trying to build a program. They react to what happened on Saturday and make judgment calls. I always joke, every now and then, we've got some people that it's not a game by game kind of deal. It's a quarter by quarter kind of deal. It's challenging, because of the media, and the information is instantaneous.

It is a different world. I understand that and appreciate that. There's a lot of things with the new media and the social media, but there's also some drawbacks, because people want it now. It's like that commercial, that [JG] Wentworth commercial. People stick their head out of the window and [say], ‘It's my money, and I want it now.' I don't want to wait. That's sort of the age that we live in.

"I was very impressed with the homework that he'd done, particularly with Chad Morris." (Hale McGranahan)
What, if any, input did you have with Swinney's hires of Chad Morris, Marion Hobby and Tony Elliott?
Phillips: Dabo, he came to me. He had his notes and what he wanted to do with his staff. He had his prospects for assistant coaches, what he wanted to look at and consider. I was very impressed with the homework that he'd done, particularly with Chad Morris. The one thing that -- and there's more than one way to skin a cat -- but if you've got to start telling the head coach what they need to do -- you can pass some observations…provide some personal information -- but if you're having to start telling your coach what to do and start tinkering, you have the wrong head coach. They've got to make those kind of decisions on their own, because they're going to rise and fall with those decisions that they make. If you're trying to help them make the decisions, you've probably got the wrong person. I was very impressed with the homework that Dabo had done, with regard to how he wanted to reconfigure his coaching staff.

With the new media policy that he has in place, some fans have made a big stink about it. What's your stance on it?
Phillips: I support Dabo. I realize that it's a change. Of course, I talked with Tim Bourret. We've had a much more open policy in the past, and not as structured as what Dabo's doing. Again, it appears to me, based upon what I'm seeing, the access to the players is still there, and the assistant coaches, but it's more structured and in specified timeframes.

From that perspective, I'm going to be supportive of Dabo, because this is a way he feels he can have control of the program, and be able to make the people available to the press that need to be available, but do it in more of an orderly fashion. I'm supportive of what he's trying to do. I think, as time goes along, he may look at it and want to tweak this area, or tweak over here, and try to improve it, if need be. Again, like things in running your program, you want to give your head coach the opportunity to make decisions to run their program. Because, at the end of the day, they're going to rise and fall, based upon those decisions.

Stay tuned for part III of CUTigers' exclusive interview with Terry Don Phillips, which will be published Thursday.

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