Football and family.
And not necessarily in that order.
If you want to know about new Lakeridge High School head football coach Spencer Phillips, then you'll want to know about the two things he values most — family and football.
Phillips — he was hired on Thursday, Feb. 6 — comes to the Pacers off four years as a quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, including the team's Super Bowl championship season in 2018.
With that job following coaching stints at Samford University, Compton College and McKinleyville High School in northern California, and those following his playing career as a quarterback at Willamette High School, West Los Angeles College, Murray State and Humboldt State, you can see that Phillips knows his football.
But to find out what Phillips values most, wrap your head around this: he gave up that dream job with the Eagles — he was just promoted to assistant quarterbacks coach in 2019-20 and worked closely with Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson — to come home to Oregon and coach the Pacers.
The obvious question that follows is … why?
"My wife got her dream job — she's a nurse at (Oregon Health & Science University) — and I wanted to make sure she could keep it," Phillips said.
Phillips and his wife, Keely Bertak — they went to high school together at Willamette — got married last summer, and as much as Phillips enjoyed his most recent season with the Eagles, he knew that home was calling.
Phillips and his wife bought a house in Multnomah Village last year, and after that, whether he knew it immediately or not, the clock had already started ticking on his move back to Oregon.
"During my time in Philadelphia, I made amazing friendships and relationships. It was tough to say goodbye," Phillips said. "But I could only take so many 'I miss yous' with my wife and parents. Oregon is home and always will be."
There were other family factors in Phillips' decision to trade Eagles for Pacers, too. First, both of his parents had health scares in recent years and he knew he needed to be closer to home. Beyond that, Phillips and Bertak want to begin their own family, a choice that would be much more difficult to manage if Phillips was still 2,800 miles away in Philadelphia.
"I knew when I was in the NFL that it was important to have our parents close," he said, noting that his parents and his wife's are next-door neighbors in Eugene. "Now, for me, being close is a blessing. I knew that being together would be important."
Beyond all that, Phillips clearly considers his players to be family, and working with high school athletes — helping boys mature into young men — was obviously one of the things that drew Phillips to Lakeridge.
"I can't wait. I have a very strong passion for mentoring kids," Phillips said. "I got into coaching to work with kids. There's nothing more gratifying than working with them and helping them grow. I just love being around them, especially at that age."
For his first year at Lakeridge, Phillips will serve solely as the Pacers' head coach; he won't teach at the high school or work elsewhere. While he may seek a teaching job eventually — he has a Master's degree in finance but has yet to secure a teaching certificate — Phillips is taking a wait and see attitude on that front.
"I'm really just focused on (coaching). I can just focus on football and be around the school and be in the weight room," Phillips said.
He credited his wife's good job, his own lack of college debt and the solid financial decisions they made following Eagles' playoff appearances in three of his four years with the flexibility to focus on coaching.
"We're both good with finances, but my wife is the rock star," he said.
Phillips found out about the Pacers' job opening after he helped run a clinic in Portland last summer. He connected with first-year Lakeridge Athletic Director Nathan Stanley at the clinic, followed Stanley on Twitter and found out about the opening there. After that, he sought out more information from West Linn AD Mark Horak — a longtime friend — and decided to apply.
Now, Phillips is looking forward to his first season at the Pacers' helm and what lies ahead.
"You'd like to win every game, obviously, but you also know that's not going to happen," he said. "So you have to focus on the big picture of working with the kids."
As to his expectations, Phillips didn't hesitate.
"I want the kids to be tough and play with 100% effort," he said. "Being tough, that starts in the weight room. I want them to be mentally and physically tough. I can teach football, but I can't teach effort."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.