NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A pioneer as a student-athlete, coach and administrator at Vanderbilt and in the Nashville area, Teresa Lawrence Phillips has received plenty of accolades over her 40-year career. That number grew by one on Wednesday with the announcement that she has been selected for induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
A letterwinner for the Commodores’ first three women’s basketball teams from 1978 to 1980, Phillips was the first Black female student-athlete at the university. Among her highlights during that time were leading Vandy with 9.7 rebounds per game during the 1978–79 season which included grabbing 19—still tied for the 10th-highest total in a game on the Dores’ record list— against Florida that winter and becoming the inaugural winner of the Lady Commodore Award, which was presented to the best all-around female student-athlete at Vanderbilt.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1980, Phillips served as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt for four seasons before becoming the head coach at Fisk, where she helped guide the Bulldogs to a 62-38 record and two Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships from 1984 to 1989. She then was the head coach at Tennessee State for 11 seasons, winning back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles in 1993–94 and ’94–95, while also becoming the first woman to serve as a head coach in an NCAA Division I men’s basketball game on Feb. 13, 2003, when she led the Tigers in a matchup with Austin Peay.
Phillips was TSU’s athletic director on an interim basis on three occasions before earning the permanent position in 2002—a role she maintained until retirement in 2020.
In 2003, Phillips was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the “101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports,” and she was recognized as one of the “10 Legends in Women’s Basketball in Tennessee” in 2014. In addition to earning numerous coaching awards, Phillips received awards recognizing her impact in athletics and the community throughout her career, and she was inducted into the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.
The 2023 Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, presented by the Tennessee Titans, will be Saturday, July 22, at the Omni Nashville Downtown.