Coaching spotlight: Phillip Lolley
Age: 55 (born 5/19/54)
College: B.A. from Livingston aka West Alabama (psychology), 1977; M.A. from Livingston (psychology), 1981.
Playing career: He was a successful pitcher in college. He threw a no-hitter as a freshman in 1974.
•Auburn, various roles (current)
•North Jackson High, head coach (1988-98)
•Stevenson High, head coach (1984-87)
•Demopolis High, defensive coordinator (1982-83)
•Warrior Academy, head coach (1978-81)
•Choctaw Academy, secondary (1977)
I've never asked him about this. I will.
Previous Auburn experience:
He's been here a while now. He has been a high-school liaison, an NFL liaison and a secondary coach.
Lolley definitely is a old-school guy. He's the oldest coach on staff and, one could argue, has made the longest trek to get here. He spent the first 21 years of his career coaching high-school ball.
Here's where it gets interesting. During his days at North Jackson High, Lolley was known as one of the most calculating and aggressive coaches in the state. He was paranoid. He went to great lengths searching for ways to annoy opponents. I've never had this corroborated, but Lolley told me he once tried to paint the NJHS visitors' lockers pink. The principal wouldn't allow it.
He was an in-your-face guy back then. In his mind, football wasn't a game for creativity. It's a place where brawn and intensity earn the real rewards. He ran simple sweeps and belly plays. He dared opponents to man up.
He won the 1993 4A state championship using that kind of approach.
Since his arrival at Auburn, though, I think Lolley has evolved in many respects. He's still extremely country and sounds like a drill instructor when he speaks. Lolley doesn't have an "inside" voice. Taping his interviews doesn't require much positioning, you might say.
Still, I don't hear him cuss. I've seen him yell at players many times, but he does it in an instructive way. I don't see him berate people for the joy of crushing a kid's psyche. If reports are true, Lolley had no problem getting negative during his high-school days.
As a secondary coach, Lolley is into intricacies. You know how Jeff Grimes and Curtis Luper examine the big picture with their players? Lolley talks about turning hips too early, placing hands in the correct place, learning to "look off" quarterbacks by looking one way and watching another. He's all about details and repetitions. Like I said: Lolley is old school.
For all that energy, you know, Lolley still is a pro's pro. I don't hear him cuss. He probably praises his players too much. Any criticisms he has, Lolley preserves them for closed-door sessions with the players themselves.
He lives by what I'd call an armed-forces code. He gets to work early and works through his list of tasks. When those tasks are completed, he works ahead. That's a big reason why Gene Chizik likes Lolley so much. Lolley's hard-edged approach provides an ideal complement to many of the new-school guys Chizik has assembled.
Lolley is respected by high-school coaches throughout the state, which makes him a valuable commodity to the Tigers' recruiting enterprise. There's nothing artificial about Lolley. He worked his way up through the ranks. He's not pious. The conversation he'd hold (and the tone he'd use) would be the same whether it's Jay Gogue or an AISA assistant coach asking for suggestions.
His loyalty also is worth noting. He's not in coaching for the money or the fame. If Lolley finds a place he likes, he stays. He spent 10 seasons at North Jackson. He's now heading into his 11th season with the Tigers.
When Tommy Tuberville
Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University
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