Russellville head coach Phil Todd has done a lot to solidify himself one of the most prominent figures in Russellville High School history.
After announcing that he will be retiring after the 2016-2017 season, it is safe to say that the longtime head basketball coach for the Panthers has ridden a long road through the school’s tradition, and that tradition stretches far beyond the game that he his most known by people in the area for.
Todd attended Russellville High from 1971-1975, where he played basketball for the Panthers and set a school rebounding record that stood until one of his own players, Pedro Bradshaw, broke it in 2016.
“I don’t remember ever counting how many rebounds I had or how many shots I took or anything like that,” Todd said. “I think the only reason that I got so many rebounds was because I always wanted the ball in my hands.”
Todd says that the eyes that he kept on his high school alma mater was what ultimately got him interested in pursuing coaching.
“I was always interested in coaching even back when I was playing football at Austin Peay. I came back and saw Russellville play one night and then went to Superintendent Jim Young and said ‘I can win with that bunch.’”
Todd finally came back to Russellville High School in 1980. He spent his first ten years as an assistant football coach, hence his background in the sport, but also helped out as an assistant basketball coach and even helped to coach the track program.
After a number of coaches left the football program, Todd was hired as the defensive coordinator in 1983, where he helped to guide the Panthers to a state championship in ’83 and in 1990.
Ironically, 1990 would also be the first year that Todd would take over as the head coach for the boy’s basketball program.
“Our (basketball) season had already started when we were finishing up with football, and we had to turn around after winning the state championship on a Friday and wake up and play Franklin-Simpson Saturday morning,” Todd said. “It was rough. We started out 1-11.”
It didn’t take long, however, for Todd to get the basketball program back in the right direction.
After going 12-18 in his first season and still winning the district championship, he would help the Panthers to seven 13th District Championships, two 4th Region runner-ups, two 4th Region Championships, and two trips to the stat semi-finals in his first tenure from 1990-2004.
After the 2004 season, Todd decided to resign from his position as the head boys’ basketball coach and to continue his position as athletic director at Russellville High School and as a member of the administrative staff.
However, even after announcing that he would retire from his AD position at RHS, Todd was hired back as the head boys’ basketball coach in 2012, replacing Dennis Pardue, who took over for Todd in 2004.
In his second tenure, Todd coached the Panthers to two 13th District Championships and one 4th Region runner-up before deciding to hang it up for good in 2017, leaving RHS as the all-time winningest coach in the school’s history with well over 300 victories, nine district titles, two region titles, and four appearances in the state tournament.
Todd admits that he cannot recall many memories from his time playing at Russellville, but he can recall some of the things that he did with his teammates.
“When all of us get together, sports don’t usually come up as a topic in our conversations,” said Todd. “We usually talk about things that we are doing in and out of school and away from the athletic field.
“That’s one thing that I think is missing from most teams in high school these days. Kids don’t run around and spend time outside of athletics like they used to. I think that is one of the key things that brings a team closer together.”
Todd recalls the district and region titles that the Panthers have won over the years as the best memories from his time as a coach, as well as the trips to the Sweet 16. Todd admits that he remembers one specific team for a quite witty reason.”
“I think one of the most memorable teams was the ’94 team that came runner-up in the region tournament,” he said. “We didn’t have anyone over 6-foot. I like the way that team scrapped to win District and to almost make it to the state tournament.”
In due time, Todd plans to take advantage of his retirement and put his days of working and coaching well behind him.
“We just adopted a newborn in 2015. She keeps me pretty busy,” said Todd. “I also have to have a couple of knee operations done after the season.
“As far as down the line, I’m going to wet the line. I hope to do a lot of fishing and maybe even try to buy me a boat. But as far as coaching is concerned, Coach Todd is signing off.”