Currently the head coach at Ringling, Football Coach Philip Koons spent more than 20 years coaching the Tuttle Tigers, and was inducted into the Oklahoma Football Coaches Hall of Fame Saturday evening.
As a head coach, Coach Koons has gone 266-67, and has won three state championships for football. He won his first two in Tuttle in 2001 and 2005, and he won his third in 2019 leading Ringling, where he also led the track team to a state title.
Speaking on his time in Tuttle, Coach Koons said, “I had some great administrators. Rick Banta was my AD and Jerry Bates was my AD for the last part of my career there. Lee Coker was my superintendent and all of those guys just kind of sat back, and let me run the show, and I’m one of those guys who coaches really hard. I’m very demanding. It all started in the weight room and having our kids get stronger and faster, and being in great shape. I always preached that we’re just going to play harder than everybody else. Our kids were like the Navy Seals man, or Marines. I mean they were. It was a great place for me to instill that culture, the hard work ethic. I never thought I’d ever leave there. Hopefully, I left it in a better place than when I took it over.”
Coach Koons won 200 games in 20 years at Tuttle, and also helped build the school’s track program.
“It just goes to show that the kids bought into what I was doing,” Coach Koons said Monday. “The parents too. You’ve got to have great parents. They have to be able to turn their child over to you and tell them to do what that man says. My thing was all about making men out of boys. What I mean by that is turning them into responsible young men and guys that are going to go out in the community and contribute, get jobs. I also talked about chivalry as far as being good to your mom and being good to your wife and girlfriend and opening the doors for people. We talked about manners, about how to shake hands and look somebody in the eye, and even hygiene sometimes. It wasn’t just football. It’s just about going out into life and being a great member in a community, a leader of the community.”
Coach Koons refers to his wife, Shelley Koons, as “An angel, a saint. I met her in high school and I went to Capitol Hill and was raised in a rough area. I didn’t have a great home life. When I met her, she kind of took me out of the trenches. I knew that if I wanted to have a good life, I would have to change my ways in order to keep her. I married her and became Catholic, and we had six kids. God has blessed me and my family. The best part of Philip Koons is Shelley and all my kids: Sterling, Tanner, Cooper, Carly, Molly and Julius.”
Mrs. Koons spoke Monday about serving as the Hall of Fame coach’s wife during their time in Tuttle.
“He’s been coaching for 36 years and what he did at Tuttle is a huge part of his history,” Shelley said. “That’s where we started, where he got his first start, where we raised most of our kids. Our first three kids graduated high school from there and our fourth was a year shy of graduating from there when we left. The other two have graduated elsewhere, but Tuttle is a great, great town with wonderful people, and a great school administration.
“We have six kids and we always got to be involved in his work and that’s what makes it so special, because he really thinks of those players as his family. They became part of our family. The players gave my kids someone to look up to all the time. What’s funny is when he first got the head coach job there, I kept thinking okay. I’ll just pray that he beats Newcastle and maybe he’ll get to keep his job. Maybe he’ll get to keep it for another year. He’s just such a hard worker and I know he’s demanding, but he demands good things from people.”
That mindset undeniably led to his selection as an OCA Hall of Fame coach, and he’s not done yet.
“He doesn’t expect things like that,” Shelley said of the coach’s Hall of Fame nod. “We never really even thought anything about the Hall of Fame. He doesn’t look for those things. As a matter of fact, when we were having a celebration for him, he said, ‘I hope people don’t think that that this means I’m not going to coach anymore.’ He just keeps on going.”
Along with coaching the legendary Jason White, Coach Koons has provided, and continues to provide, many men the tools to become great men themselves, including Tuttle alumnus Josh Henson. Henson currently serves as the Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach at the University of Southern California.
“There’s a standard of what was expected and that standard was your very best,” Coach Henson said, “and if you didn’t give your very best, you’re going to hear about it. When coach got here, we had not been winning a lot, and we were really hungry to win, and we knew it was going to take that type of change in our culture to start winning, and that’s what coach brought. Coach Koons coached hard, but he loved hard too.
“He basically just broke things down to, there is no try, you either get the job done or you don’t. At the end of the day, that’s the job of a husband and a father, or any man in our society, to get things done, and to find a way. Coach always believed there was a way, and it made you believe you could be something more than what you were. I think he inspired a lot of young men to become something better than even they thought they could be.
“I’m here today because Philip Koons saw something in me and then pushed me like crazy to bring it out of me, because I really wasn’t a real tough guy. He taught me that you bring everything you got to the table, and don’t take anything less than your very best from yourself. I really wasn’t that guy but because he made me that guy in high school, I was that guy in college.”
Henson attended Oklahoma State after graduating from Tuttle High School in 1993. He walked on and then started for the Cowboys for four years.
“I know in my heart of hearts, there’s two guys I owe for where I’m at today,” Hesnson said, “and that’s my dad for raising me tough, and Coach Koons for coaching me tough.”
Now a self-employed oilfield consultant and construction contractor, Kyle Shelton is another of the hundreds of men who played for Coach Koons at Tuttle. A Tiger linebacker who helped his team win the state championship in 2005, his senior season, Shelton said nobody has had more impact on him than Koons.
“If you’re ever looking for one person who epitomized a leader, a mentor, toughness, hard work, that’s Philip Koons,” Shelton said.”One of the biggest memories that sticks out to me is after we won that state championship, he was hugging all of us and telling us he loved us. That was the pinnacle of my time there, because it was the last game I ever played with him. That was a pretty good moment for all of us. He expected a lot out of you, but I honestly don’t think that there’s any person in my life that had a bigger impact or influence.”
Coach Koons’s record the last four years at Ringling is 47-4.