By Justin A. Rice
Roaming the sidelines for Brighton High for the last 30 years, usually with his trademark toothpick in his mouth, James Philip never measured success in wins and loses.
“I’m out there teaching, I try to teach young people to play football, grow up, get in shape, work together, learn the rules of the game and hopefully have success,” Philip said a day after losing his final game as Brighton’s coach on Friday to West Roxbury, 22-18. “I don’t know my record as a head coach. I bet you dollars to donuts I’ve lost twice as much as I’ve won.”
That’s not to say the 68-year-old, who is also retiring from his job as a history teacher at Brighton High at the end of the school year, hasn’t had winning teams on the football field. Philip led the Bengals to four Super Bowls in five years (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010), winning in 2007 with a perfect 12-0 record.
And now, after a total of 42 years of coaching and teaching, Philip says “it’s time” to move on, although he’s not exactly sure what he will move on to.
“Forty-two years of being in the classroom, that’s enough, it’s time to make room for young people,” said Philip, who noted that he taught at coached at Newton North for two years before joining the Brighton staff. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, I truly love teaching but I want to get on with the rest of my life
“My goal is to be retired for at least as long as a worked, 42 years,” he said. “I don’t have any special plans, I don’t know exactly what I’ll do. I’ll figure out something but it’s going to be happening later than 7:30 in the morning.”
Moving on is bittersweet for Philip, who said he took over as Brighton’s head coach some time in the 1990s.
“I probably won’t get to feeling it till August when I’d be getting ready for football or in September when I realize I’m not going back to Brighton High School,” he said. “But I think I can live with it. I think I can stand it.
“Working with teenagers was the very best job I could have ever had. I’m sure I’ll be sorry but I’m sure I’ll be pleased. I had a good career, enjoyed it and I was good at it.”
Philip said his Super Bowl-winning team had about nine four-year seniors who played on his team when they went 0-9 four years earlier.
“I’m not like some of the other coaches in Eastern Western Mass with a long tradition in football, “I’m not [Everett High coach] John DiBiaso,” Philip said. “The perfect season was special to us. It was special to me.”
Two years after winning the Super Bowl, the Bengals snuck into the playoffs with a sub .500 record and managed to beat Tri-County High 8-6 to go to the Division 4A Super Bowl. But after report cards came out a few days later much of the team was deemed academically ineligible and they lost in the Super Bowl. The team rallied to return to the Super Bowl the following season but lost to Northeast for the second straight year.
Philip said he will recommend his assistant coach since 2004, Randolph Abraham succeed him as head coach. The application process will start in the spring, he said.
“He works in the building, he’s good with young people and he’s a good coach,” Philip said of Abraham.
This season Brighton finished 5-5 overall and 3-1 in the league, with Friday night’s loss coming to West Roxbury, a team coached by Leo Sybertz, the only BPS coach who has been at it longer than Philip.
“We expected to win them all, I thought we’d win the league but we didn’t,” Philip said. “It was disappointing in a sense because we didn’t meet our expectations but no year is disappointing as long as the young men play well.
“I don’t measure success in wins and losses, I never have.”