Legendary Mitty girls basketball coach wins 800th game


SAN JOSE — Hard to imagine anyone having a better run these days than Archbishop Mitty’s Sue Phillips.

The legendary coach was selected in late November for induction this spring into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. A few weeks later, her storied high school program won a nationally-televised thriller to rise to No. 1 in the country.

Then came Thursday’s milestone.

With her team’s 79-8 rout on the road of overmatched Presentation — the Panthers suited up six players — Phillips became the fourth high school girls basketball coach in California history to win 800 games, according to records kept by Cal-Hi Sports.

She was handed a bouquet of flowers and held up an 800 sign during a postgame moment with her team.

Archbishop Mitty’s Morgan Cheli (33) holds up “800” in front of Archbishop Mitty head coach Sue Phillips following their 79-8 win over Presentation, her 800th career victory, at Presentation High School in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

The rarified air is 30-plus seasons in the making, a monumental achievement for a woman who stood out in basketball and softball as a Mitty student in the mid-1980s and began filling the school’s gymnasium with championship basketball banners as head coach in the 1990s.

Except for a one-season toe dip as an assistant coach at Cal under Caren Horstmeyer in 2000-01, Phillips has been a steady and intense presence on the Mitty bench since 1992, shouting and whistling instructions to high-achieving players game after game, season after season.

What does 800 mean to the coach?

“Any time a milestone like this comes upon you, you become quite reflective,” Phillips, 55, told the Bay Area News Group hours before the victory over Presentation. “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that none of this is possible without my current and former players and assistant coaches. So kudos to everyone involved.

“Coaching honors and coaching milestones are a shared acknowledgement or milestone. That’s not to say that personally I haven’t grinded over the years because that would be true as well. But I am just really proud of our legacy and I choose those words wisely because I do think it’s our legacy. It also reminds me of my age.”

Now in her 31st season, Phillips has guided her alma mater to 24 of its 31 Central Coast Section championships. She has led the school to all 15 of its NorCal titles and its six state crowns.

Her 1998-99 team went 31-0 and won the Division I state championship – largely the equivalent of the modern-day Open Division – and her 2017-18 team ended the season ranked No. 1 nationally.

She has coached WNBA stars such as Danielle Robinson and Haley Jones. The daughter of former 49ers running back Roger Craig, Rometra Craig, helped lead the 31-0 team.

Phillips’ first state championship team in 1995 featured future Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh.

“Many people are going to say, ‘well, she’s been blessed with so much talent,’ and she has,” said Salesian coach Stephen Pezzola, whose program has had its share of hard-fought battles against Mitty. “She has a lot of talent. But it’s not necessarily so easy to get a group of really talented players to play well together. That’s what the coach, the conductor has to do sometimes. She’s been really good at that. Her record speaks for itself.”

Phillips’ current team could go down as one of her best, if not the best.

Led by 6-foot-2 point guard Morgan Cheli, who will play for UConn starting next season, and sophomore superstar McKenna Woliczko, an athletic 6-2 forward/center, the Monarchs won the top division at the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona just before Christmas and then swept three games last week at a holiday tournament in Portland, Ore.

In the final at the Nike TOC, Mitty edged Long Island Lutheran — then ranked No. 1 nationally — 73-72 in an ESPNU game.

The victory Thursday improved Mitty’s season record to 11-0 and Phillips’ career mark to 800-138.

“It’s incredibly special,” Cheli said about her coach’s milestone win. “Playing here for four years, it’s really a privilege and an honor. We’re all so proud of her, and she’s so deserving of this.

“She’s not just our coach. She has been our mentor, a role model and an inspiration. She instills in us a lot of really important characteristics. When we step out on the court, we all want to make her proud.”

Archbishop Mitty's Morgan Cheli (33) takes a shot against Presentation in the fourth quarter at Presentation High School in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Archbishop Mitty’s Morgan Cheli (33) takes a shot against Presentation in the fourth quarter at Presentation High School in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Thursday, Woliczko finished with 20 points and Cheli had 10 assists, nine points and six steals in a game that had a running clock for the entire fourth quarter.



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