An interview with the new face of Tulsa football, Head Coach Philip Montgomery

The Collegian: Why Tulsa? Why do you think this was the right fit?
Philip Montgomery: I love the tradition of the program. It’s a place where I felt like you could come here and win. With my family, the city itself felt like a great fit for them. Those were my two biggest factors; I also liked the private university. It’s a small campus, and I really like that niche, the family atmosphere you get here.

TC: What did Coach Art Briles have to say about your move? Is there any advice he gave you on your first head coaching job?

PM: Coach Briles was very supportive. I’ve been with him for such a long time, and he had been such a great mentor to me, and I’ve tried to learn as much as I can from him. It was special, the way he helped me and guided me through this process, he thought it was a great opportunity.

TC: How has the welcoming been from the Tulsa community, such as alumni and other coaches on staff?

PM: It’s been great. The city itself has been wonderful—the people here are down-to-earth, friendly people that will do anything for you.

You can double that when you start talking about the University in itself, from Stead all the way down. Everybody has bent over backwards for us and welcomed us with open arms.

As I meet the local high school coaches, there’s so many alums that are out there, a bunch of those guys are excited and the energy has been phenomenal.

TC: Besides the fact that this is your first head coaching job, what are some differences between TU and the other places you’ve been?

PM: Tulsa’s smaller and has a little bit more tight-knit community. Overall, I think anywhere you go, you have hurdles you have to climb.
For us, it’s getting back on track here, getting to our winning ways, getting the alumni and lettermen involved, but especially getting the city and the student body involved. Whatever we can do to make this a unique setting and a difficult place for teams to come in here and play.

TC: What immediate challenges do you see for this team moving forward into next year?

PM: Until we get into spring football and fall camp, it’s tough to tell. Our guys have been working their tails off. There’s some need, as I’ve looked at our roster, that we’ve hopefully tried to address in our recruiting class.

From a depth standpoint, not having the guys we needed all the way through it. When you get in a situation where one guy goes down, that next guy that needs to step up—is he ready, or do you even have that guy? That’s when you need to start moving around players and changing some spots. Hopefully we’ve addressed those things, but the team is young.

TC: How has the team welcomed you to TU?

PM: They’ve been great. They’re excited, they’ve brought a ton of energy, they’re really determined. They’ve really been working hard out there. We keep pushing buttons, grinding them, getting them to where we really want them. Those guys have stepped up and accepted the challenge.

TC: You’ve had the great opportunity to work with many outstanding quarterbacks, such as Bryce Petty and Robert Griffin III. What do you think of the quarterbacks here at TU? Do you think you’ll be able to develop them like you have those other great quarterbacks?

PM: A lot of these guys on campus and the guys we’re bringing in all have talent. They have different strengths and weaknesses. We have to make sure we’re developing them as a complete person. We have to use their strengths. I have great hopes for all of them.

Like I said, we have to get out on the field, see where it all falls, but I’m excited about what they can bring.

TC: Is there anybody you’d like to mention that’s really rising to the new challenge?

PM: [Keyarris] Garrett’s doing a great job, Derrick Alexander’s doing a great job, those seniors have really bought in to what we’re doing.
There’s a bunch of guys trying to get to know us; we’re trying to get to know them. But as a team, it’s just been, “Coach, whatever we have to do to win,” so I think they’ve really bought in.

TC: There’s been some major struggles on defense this past year for TU. Especially now that you have to worry about the other side of the ball, how do you think you’ll be able to face those struggles?

PM: On that question, to be honest, we’re gonna win or lose as a team. It’s not going to be offense, defense or special teams. All those guys have to be in the same boat, going in the same direction. I have complete faith in our defensive staff and what we bring to the table.

We’ve got a good mixture of experience and youth that brings a lot of energy. I’m not concerned about that; my job is to make sure that when we step on the field, we play with the passion that you need to win.

TC: How do you think you’ll be able to use your relationship with Texas high school coaches to improve recruiting?

PM: I was one of those Texas high school coaches. I know their struggles, and they know mine, and there’s a working relationship there.

They know I’ve got their back on some things. Being able to say “that coach knows me,” and knowing the type of person I and my staff am, I think that’ll help with recruiting going forward.

TC: What kind of off-the-field philosophies did Coach Briles have at Baylor? What of those will you bring here to TU?

PM: Coach didn’t have a ton of rules. We had some simple rules that were laid out. As you get to college, it’s part of your maturation process.

We’re going to treat you like men, as long as you’ll act like a man. They know they’re accountable for what they do on and off the field, but they also understand that it’s not always going to be roses.

There’s going to be some bumps in the road, and to adapt to and learn how to handle those is key. Also, to find something in your day to compete at-life’s about competition, not just on the field but off it, too. He’s always stressed those things, and we stress them here.

TC: Is there anything else you want to say?

PM: I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m excited about the way our guys have responded. I can’t wait until spring football, to get out on the field with them, and really putting them through the drills. Knowing we have a lot of ground to cover. Those guys are ready to get out there and get winning again.

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