Michael W. “Coach” Phillips
Passed peacefully on February 6th, 2021 after a brave 40-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Mike was born December 2nd, 1942 in Mason City, Iowa. At an early age, Mike developed a passion for sports. According to those who knew him, Mike was “smart as a whip” – an attribute that led to his early successes as a young athlete during his high school years at Shattuck School in Faribault, MN (Class of ’61). Often the smallest player on the court, his ability to read the court and anticipate an opponent’s next move made him a stand-out. He was a team captain in basketball and baseball and also lettered in football. In 1961, Mike was the recipient of the Williams Cup, an award presented to the best all-around athlete.
Mike went on to earn his BA and MA at Colorado State University. Upon graduation, he began his teaching and coaching career in Jackson, WY. In 1964, Mike and wife Linda gave birth to their first child, Mike Jr. In 1969, Mike’s love of Shattuck brought him back to his alma mater, where he was a math teacher, a multi-sport coach, and ultimately the Athletic Director. In 1970, daughter Kari was born.
As a coach, Mike valued the intangibles of character, hard work, and commitment over raw skill. He had a special talent for recognizing a player’s unique strengths and for helping them develop to their full potential. He was also a master of strategy. This combination proved successful as his early Shattuck basketball teams had a 61-game winning streak, nearly breaking the longest winning streak in the state of MN. Beloved by his players, many stayed in touch well after graduation.
In the late 70’s, Mike was instrumental in starting an alternative school program for struggling high school-age students, something he would later say was one of his proudest accomplishments. In 1980, he made a career shift and became a financial planner and trusted advisor with IDS/American Express. Mike was also a long-time member of Sertoma, whose mission is to serve the community and improve the lives of those who need help. In 1981, at the age of 38, Mike was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD).
Upon early retirement in 1994, Mike relocated to Skull Valley, AZ. He enjoyed playing tennis and hiking around his ranch and neighboring foothills. Mike’s love of animals had him welcoming many additions into his home. He was considered a mainstay at the Skull Valley General Store, where he made friends with all the locals.
In 1997, he made the courageous decision to be one of the very first to undergo deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, which proved to give him extended quality of life. Mike navigated the progression of this disease over 40 years with an amazingly positive attitude. In 2009, the progression of Parkinson’s led to the decision to move closer to family, first to Plano, TX near his sister Nancy, and in 2016, back to MN with his daughter, Kari, where he lived the rest of his life.
Always quick witted, Mike was notorious for finding the humor in things and chiming in with the perfect one-liners. During every chapter of his life, Mike developed meaningful friendships that he maintained throughout his life. He was a deeply caring and empathetic person, willing to go the extra mile for those in need. Mike will be remembered as a resilient man; a person known for his positivity and ability to tackle life’s challenges in a graceful manner. Ultimately, he will be celebrated as a proud and loving father and grandfather.
Survived by children, Michael (Alisa) Phillips, Jr. and Kari (Devang) Phillips Shah; grandchildren, Kayleigh Phillips and Gregory Phillips; sister, Nancy O’Fallon; first wife and caring friend, Linda (Benish) Boss; several extended family members and many friends.
Preceded in death by parents, Harold and Elaine Phillips; brother-in-law, Thomas O’Fallon; several former players and good friends.
A celebration of Mike’s life will be held in the summer of 2021 in Faribault, MN, details to follow. Memorial gifts are appreciated to Shattuck School (s-sm.org) or the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (michaeljfox.org).
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