Dan Reeves and Wade Phillips have coached in Super Bowls and taught some of the greatest football players that have ever played the game. At this point, they have probably accomplished nearly everything possible in their coaching careers.
When Reeves and Phillips were asked by Harold Richardson, executive director of the East-West Shrine Game®, to coach the 86th annual game neither hesitated to accept the invitation. Both men wanted to help Richardson, their long-time friend. They also wanted to coach in the game that helps raise money and awareness for the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children®.
Reeves, Phillips, and Richardson have known each other and been close friends for almost 40 years. In a business that can have many highs and lows, the one thing that has remained constant for these three has been their friendship.
“Coach Reeves and Coach Phillips share the same core values as me,” said Richardson. “They both believe in treating people with respect. They expect loyalty and give loyalty.”
Richardson first met Phillips when the two worked on Oklahoma State University’s coaching staff. They both coached under Phillips’ father, Bum Phillips, who was the defensive coordinator at the time. The two quickly became friends and when Richardson got married a year later, Phillips was his best man. Even though the two men would go on to coach for different teams, they remained close.
In 1981, Richardson and Phillips reunited when Bum got the head coaching job for the New Orleans Saints. Bum hired Richardson to be the outside linebackers’ coach, while Phillips was the defensive coordinator. During the Saints’ training camps, they would practice against Reeves’ Denver Broncos and the three got to know each other on and off the field.
“The thing that impressed me about Wade and Harold was how well they taught their players and communicated with them,” said Reeves. “I could tell right away they were going to be easy to work with.”
Phillips and Richardson would go on to join Reeves’ staff in 1989 as the defensive coordinator and special teams coach, respectively. In their first year as coaches on the same staff, the Broncos went 11-5 and made the Super Bowl. Reeves took Phillips under his wing and became a mentor in many ways.
“I learned from Dan to not just do things right – to do things exactly right,” said Phillips.
When Reeves was named the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 1997, he brought Richardson along to be the general manager and in charge of personnel. Just like that first year they were together in Denver, the chemistry proved to be a recipe for success. The Falcons went 14-2 and made a trip to the Super Bowl for the first time in Falcons’ history. Phillips joined the Falcons as defensive coordinator in 2002, and the three worked together once again.
In 2007, when Phillips was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys he was faced with a difficult situation when his tight ends coach was suspended for the first six games of the season. In order to avoid shuffling around the whole coaching staff, Phillips called on his old friend Richardson to help out. The Cowboys won all six games with Richardson and had a record of 13-3 that season.
“I owe all my success that year to Harold,” said Phillips.
The three friends will reunite from their Super Bowls days for an extremely special cause on January 22, 2011, at the Florida Citrus Bowl. They will be there not only for friendship and football, but because they realize the kind of difference the Shriners Hospital For Children® makes in the lives of the children every day.
It is this level of commitment and dedication of these three men that has made the East-West Shrine Game a top-notch game for the past 86 years.
Pictured: from left -Wade Phillips, Dan Reeves and Harold Richardson reunite for the East-West Shrine Game®.