He was so close to getting the Naugatuck job a year ago, but Tim Phipps didn’t have to wait much longer for another school to give him a chance.
As fate would have it, he’s not going anywhere. And things just might have worked out better than he could have imagined.
The Woodland offensive coordinator was promoted as the school’s head coach Monday. He takes over for Tim Shea, under whom Phipps served for six years.
Phipps, 39, has been with the program since it began. He was one of Chris Anderson’s first hires and coached the team during its back-to-back state championship seasons in 2004 and 2005. He’s also taught AP History at Woodland since it opened in 2001.
A 1997 UConn graduate, Phipps coached a pair of seasons as a volunteer at Ansonia. He joined Woodland’s fledgling staff in 2001 and became offensive coordinator when Shea took over for Anderson in 2008.
“It’s very exciting,” said Phipps, a 1993 Ansonia graduate who played for Jack Hunt. “Very few people get to do this. I know there’s a ton of responsibility. I know there’s tons of stress involved. But to teach and coach at the same school and be a part of the program since it started, I’m very humbled by the whole thing.”
Still, it stung Phipps when he didn’t get the Naugatuck job a year ago. He was a finalist until the final moments when the school announced it had hired Craig Bruno away from Bunnell. “I was disappointed because I felt like I was so close,” he said. “We’re all competitors and so I’d felt like I lost. I thought I was ready to be a head coach. It was more of an ego blow, than anything else.
“But, as I told the kids when I met them in the weight room later that day, I still felt fortunate because I didn’t want to leave Woodland. Yeah, I wanted to take that next step and become a head coach, but I still had a home. And the thing I couldn’t get over was how great the kids were about the whole process. The kids were fantastic and it cushioned the blow.”
Thanks in part to Phipps’ spread offense which was directed by record-breaking senior quarterback Tanner Kingsley, Woodland averaged more than 34 points per game, went 12-3, won the NVL Copper Division and reached the state championship game for the first time since 2005. Woodland lost to Ansonia in the Class S final.
In May, Shea told Phipps he was going to take a coaching job at Post University. Phipps realized he had a great chance to take over.
“That’s what people kept telling me when the Naugy job was done,” he said. “They’d say, ‘Maybe there’s something better waiting for you.’ Well, here we are.”
Woodland graduates several key components from last year’s title run. But plenty of talent remains including junior RB Sean McAllen, LB Jake Laliberte and linemen Will Flormann and Alex Varhol. With Kingsley graduating, Phipps also will have to break in a new quarterback.
“We have a good core coming back,” he said. “These kids understand what their job is. We want to maintain the tradition set by all the great teams and great coaches who came before us. We have to wake up every day and want to earn it. I’d like to have a few more kids playing. But these kids I have, they’re a great group.”