The National Association of Black Journalists honored former Howard University men’s soccer coach Lincoln Phillips with the 2016 Sam Lacy Pioneer Award earlier this month.
I’ve been an NABJ member since 1992 when I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and attended my first convention in Detroit.
I was both proud and elated when my professional organization honored Mr. Phillips who was also once my high school physical education teacher at the Newport Preparatory School in Kensington.
During an August 5th ceremony at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel in the Woodley Park neighborhood of the nation’s capital, Phillips was among a group of seven distinguished individuals who were honored by the NABJ Sports Task Force.
In addition to Phillips, the NABJ Sports Task Force also honored Glenn Harris, John Thompson, Larry Brown, Michele Roberts, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Frank Robinson.
“I was honored to get the Sam Lacy Award,” said Harris, a legendary D.C. sportscaster and former Howard University baseball player, “because I remember being a rare reporter that visited him in his home. He was known to be a very private person. That meant a lot to me.”
All but one – Robinson (who had a prior engagement) – were in attendance that night.
“The awardees on the stage just blew my mind,” said Phillips, 75, who in the early 1970’s became the first head coach to lead a historically black college program to an NCAA Division I men’s soccer championship.
The native of Trinidad and Tobago told me that he was a rookie goalkeeper with the Baltimore Bays soccer team in 1968 when Monroe was spending his rookie season with the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets.
“I was a big fan of Earl,” said Phillips. “He was my hero.”
As a star goalkeeper, Phillips once competed against the likes of Pele and other well-known players. He played professionally overseas and competed in the United States for both the Bays and the Washington Darts.
The NABJ also paid homage to Brown, a Pittsburgh native and former Washington Redskins running back.
The former Kansas State standout was selected to the Pro Bowl four times during his tenure in Washington and earned the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1972.
“Every time they ran the ball they would give it to Larry Brown,” recalled Phillips. “He was the star as far as I was concerned and I admired him a lot.”
In 1984, Thompson became the first African-American head coach to win a men’s NCAA Division I basketball championship when he led Georgetown to an 84-75 victory over Houston.
Thompson, a D.C. native who played at Archbishop Carroll High School, also won a pair of NBA championship rings with the Boston Celtics in the mid-1960’s.
However, he will go down in history as one of the greatest coaches to ever grace the planet.
“John Thompson was my idol as a coach,” said Phillips. “I was very proud to be on the stage with him.”
Robinson made history in 1975 by becoming the first African-American to manage a Major League Baseball franchise (Cleveland Indians). He also managed the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals during his illustrious career in professional baseball.
Phillips was also honored on the stage that night with Harris, his former Howard University classmate, and Michele Roberts, the first female to serve as executive director for the National Basketball Players Association.
Roberts, who began her career at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, was also the first woman to head a major professional sports union in North America.
“That alone tells you being in that company it was an honor and very humbling to me,” said Phillips.
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