Philip Montgomery needed just one date to fall for his future wife. It didn’t take much longer for the Golden Hurricane first-year head coach to fall for The University of Tulsa football program as well as for the city of Tulsa.
“It’s a place where I felt very comfortable,” says Montgomery, also known as Coach Monty. “And when Ashli and I talked, we knew we wanted to finish raising our kids here in Tulsa.”
“I’m blown away by the landscape and the beauty,” said Ashli of her new hometown.
Nearly 21 years after a homemade spaghetti meal led to the altar eight months later, the native Texans and their two children – Cannon (17), and Maci (15), headed north of the Red River. Both Montgomery children attend Cascia Hall Preparatory School where Cannon, a junior, is a football player, and Maci, a freshman, is a cheerleader.
Last December, Coach Monty was named a head football coach for the first time in his nearly 20-year career, 16 years in which he served with head coach Art Briles during stops at Stephenville High School and the University of Houston. For the last seven seasons, Philip served as offensive coordinator for Briles at Baylor University.
“Coach Briles has been a great mentor of mine,” says Coach Monty. Briles’ Baylor offense led the nation in scoring with 48.8 points and in total offense with 581.3 yards per game last season. Now, as Coach Monty sets out on his own path, he has created a team philosophy that extends beyond Xs and Os. His philosophy of hard work, sense of ownership and community has resonated with the team, making it no coincidence that on the heels of a two-win season, the Golden Hurricane jumped out to a 2-0 start.
“It’s about us believing in each other and about the guy who plays beside me,” he says.
Ashli offers insight into her husband’s success. “Philip has done a good job of letting the players know they are valued,” she says.
And it’s not just players he values. Former NFL and Golden Hurricane defensive back Nick Graham, now a defensive analyst on Coach Monty’s staff, says that when his 5-year-old son Nicholas was preparing for his first day of kindergarten, Coach Monty encouraged him to experience it because, “You only get one first day of school.”
Graham explains the Coach’s approach: “He encourages a family atmosphere.”
Coach Monty is a strong believer in the importance of family. “I want our football players not only to see us as football coaches but as husbands and dads–part of a family.”
To that end, Philip and his coaches have their families join in with football meals. It allows him time with his own children, something that can be limited due to the demands of the job.
“He’s always done a really good job of coming to as many things as he can even if it’s a 10-minute choir practice at lunch if he can’t make the concert,” Ashli says.
Philip explains, “I don’t want our children to leave home one day and say, ‘We had a great childhood, but we didn’t see our dad.’”
It’s easy to recognize that his sense of family extends beyond his own home and his own team. Resting on his office desk at the TU Case Center is a paper airplane given to him by Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Performance Adam Davis’ 5-year-old daughter, Maryn. He displays the airplane with as much joy as if it were a championship trophy for the simple reason: “She cared enough to make it, and she cared enough to give it to me.”
Along with the university’s commitment to football, Coach Monty also was impressed with the university’s academic reputations and its undergraduate size of 3,000 that make it the smallest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“You will find out who you are here and who you want to be,” he says. “The type of education you’ll receive, the people you’re going to meet; it’ll carry you throughout your life.” It’s a message Coach Monty conveys to families while on the recruiting trail.
“We talk about it with recruits and with their parents,” he says. “You will do a tremendous job on the football field, but you will be a greater part of a community. You are going to sit in class, and the professor will know you; the young lady sitting next to you will know you.”
It’s a message well received, as Graham says, “There’s something about him these kids dig.”