FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The departure of North Dakota State University men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips has saddened some students on the campus where Phillips was popular because of his success and his personality.
Ohio University announced Sunday that it has hired Phillips, who led NDSU to a record-tying 26 wins this past season and a trip to the NCAA Tournament — where the Bison upset Oklahoma in the second round.
“Seeing Phillips and all the work that he did throughout the tournament, it was really cool to see, and it’s just kind of sad to see him go because it was a really great moment for us in the school,” freshman Andi Elvert told WDAY-TV.
Phillips was an assistant at NDSU for three seasons before taking over the head job when Tim Miles went to Colorado State. This season he was one of 15 finalists for the 2014 Hugh Durham Award, given to the top NCAA Division I mid-major men’s basketball coach.
Phillips leaves NDSU with the fourth-most wins by a head coach, with 134. At Ohio, he will be replacing Jim Christian, who left after two years to coach Boston College.
“I would like to thank the Fargo community for the last 10 years,” Phillips said in a statement. “I have nothing but positive memories from the players I leave behind and the administration that gave me the shot of a lifetime. Transition is always hard, and it is extremely difficult leaving people who I love.”
NDSU junior John Carlin told WDAY that “you’ve got to respect a man for wanting to advance his career. He’s given a lot of good years to NDSU, and we thank him for that.”
Athletic Director Gene Taylor said the school “will move quickly and efficiently to name a replacement.” He did not give a specific timeline.
NDSU also is seeking a new women’s basketball head coach. Carolyn DeHoff resigned at the end of the season after six years at the helm.
Head football coach Craig Bohl also left following last season, to take the head coaching job at Wyoming after leading the Bison to three consecutive Football Championship Subdivision titles. Defensive coordinator Chris Klieman was tabbed to succeed him.