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Monday, March 26, 2007
North Dakota St. introduces new head coach Phillips

Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. -- Credit North Dakota State point guard Ben Woodside with another assist, this time in the decision on the Bison men's basketball coach.

Woodside told school administrators the NDSU players were unanimous in their support for Saul Phillips.

"When Ben Woodside said he's a better basketball player because of Saul Phillips, I'm not going to argue," NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said Monday in announcing Phillips would take over the program from Tim Miles, who was named head coach at Colorado State.

Woodside said he and Taylor had a "lengthy conversation" about the team's endorsement of Phillips.

"We're happy. This is what we wanted," Woodside said.

It's the first head coaching job for Phillips, a Bison assistant for the last three years. Earlier, he was the director of basketball operations for three years at Wisconsin, where he handled scheduling, travel, budgeting and on-campus recruiting.

"This shouldn't be too hard," Phillips said after he was introduced as NDSU's 22nd head coach. "I've been practicing this moment in the shower since I was in fifth grade.

"Nobody has more of an emotional attachment to what is going on here than me, I guarantee you that," he said.

The Bison finished the season 20-8, the first time they won 20 games since moving to Division I before the 2004-05 season. They return four of five starters, including three double-figure scorers.

"I really like the talent we have," Phillips said.

Miles announced last week he was taking the head job at Colorado State. Taylor said he watched Phillips closely last season because he suspected Miles would receive other job offers.

"It hasn't been a short turnaround. It's been a year of study," Taylor said.

Phillips, a native of Reedsburg, Wis., played basketball for four years at Wisconsin-Platteville. He led Platteville to a national championship in 1995.

He has spent the last 11 years as an assistant coach at five different schools.

Taylor said Phillips also received recommendations from Miles, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, Iowa State and former NDSU head coach Greg McDermott and Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard.

Miles guided the transition from Division II "as gracefully as any school in America ever has," Phillips said.

"The messenger is changing. The message isn't," he said.