For over 20 years Phil Todd has been associated with Russellville athletics in some form or another. Under coach Todd, the Panthers of Russellville has seen unprecedented success in all its sports. Under his watchful eye, the Panthers have destroyed the notion that a smaller school can’t compete with the big schools in athletics.
Last week, though, came the news that coach Phil Todd was finally calling it quits as the athletic director of Russellville and going into retirement.
“Russellville school system has been real good for me, and I’ll miss it, the kids and people I worked with,” Phil Todd said in an interview last week.
In 1981 Jim Young hired Phil Todd as an assistant coach in basketball and from there he joined Ken Barrett’s football coaching staff in 1982. After spending nine years as an assistant coach in basketball, coach Phil Todd got promoted to the head basketball coach and helped lead the Panthers to state wide prominence when he coached the Panthers to three regional titles.
“We had some pretty decent players back then,” Todd said. “We were fortunate enough to take a small school like Russellville to the big house three times, but it wasn’t because of me it was because of the players.”
Under his guidance Russellville enjoyed a period of success in basketball that very few schools in recent memory have matched. Then when he was promoted to athletic director of Russellville the success he experienced as both a basketball coach and as a football coach under coach Barrett started to spread to the other sports.
“I never looked at winning or losing as being successful, if your team improves I used to measure my success by that,” Todd said. “They really worked hard, some of them found success at the next level.”
With a hall of fame coach Lou Kendall at the helm of baseball, Panthers baseball flourished. Softball saw the Lady Panthers get to the region tournament four straight years. Track saw Russellville burst onto the state scene and tennis saw a good amount of success under his watch as the athletic director.
But the winter and fall sports is where coach Todd’s influence really showed.
Under his first year as athletic director, he attracted coach Dennis Pardue from the power program he built at Todd County to succeed him as the next basketball coach. He also replaced Bob Nelson and lured coach John Myers away from the powerhouse program he built at Monroe County.
“He’s been a tremendous friend and colleague of mine in the time I’ve been here and I can’t say enough good things about coach Todd,” head football coach John Myers said. “
In his second full year he brought in coach Dedra Adler to help build the Lady Panthers basketball as well as coach Eric Gorham to mold the Lady Panthers volleyball teams into teams that would not only just compete in the district but in the region.
“Only thing we look at as coaches and administrators and hope the town folk see it is that we’re competitive and that all our teams stay competitive and no telling what can happen from there,” Todd said.
Now with coach Myers taking a position on the school board, and coach Pardue hanging it up as basketball head coach the timing felt right for Phil Todd to retire.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a year or so, and at 27 years you can retire and I got 29,” Todd said. “I knew that coach was going away before it hit the papers, that wasn’t the deciding factor I just thought it was time for me to go.”
One of his last acts as athletic director will be to help find a new head coach for basketball.
“We’re still looking for a qualified coach in basketball to get them back to where they were before,” Todd said. “We feel like we can be competitive in football and basketball next year.”
Phil Todd will now happily go into retirement and sort of hit the relax button. After having so much to do with all things Russellville athletics he’s looking forward to retirement.
“Actually I’m going to do a lot of fishing and I’ll find something to keep me busy in the winter months,” Todd said. “I plan on doing very little after I retire, actually I’m thinking about substitute teaching, and if they need some kind of help I’ll be willing to do that but it’ll be very limited.”
Even though he will no longer be the athletic director at Russellville, his influence on the Panther athletics will be felt for a long time to come.