Phil Mathews began his coaching career as an assistant coach at U.C. Irvine (1973-1978), and spent four years at Cal State Fullerton before coming to Ventura College in 1985. When Phil arrived at Ventura College, the basketball team had been moderately successful the previous two decades. Hundreds of loyal fans regularly attended the V.C. home games. Little did anyone realize that the Phil Mathews era would be one for the ages.
The clearest way to list the professional achievements of Phil Mathews are the numerous awards, records and championships he and his teams amassed during his decade-long tenure at Ventura College. The list includes:
- Ten consecutive Western State Conference Championships
- Two California State Championships (1987,1995)
- State Community College Coach of the Year (1992, 1993, 1995)
- Southern California Coach of the Year (1992, 1994)
- Five times named WSC Coach of the Year
- Urban League Education Award (1987)
- Overall V.C. record of 298-56
- Overall WSC record of 94-14
- Overall winning percentage of .813
- Elected to the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame (1995)
Although he is incredibly proud of those achievements, Phil remains equally proud of his players' successes after they left V.C. Over 90% of Phil's players matriculated to four-year colleges and universities. Two players went on to star in the NBA: Cedric Ceballos (Phoenix Suns, Lakers) and Rafer Alston (currently playing for the Houston Rockets). Some players are now coaches.
Phil's legacy at V.C. goes beyond the hardwood:
"We Play Hard" Phil's team motto was brief and to the point. This motto has been embraced by other athletic programs at V.C., such as the women's basketball team. Rarely is it now that you don't see some type of motto on the backs of opposing basketball players. Some mottos are obviously spin-offs on We Play Hard.
Choreographed Warm-up: The routine became legendary. Today, many teams from other colleges, both men and women, emulate that classic V.C. warm-up routine. For 7:00 pm home games, fans would arrive by 5:30 to get a good seat to watch V.C. warm-ups. Not only did the fans watch, but opposing players would almost stop their warm-ups to watch V.C.'s 10 minute routine. For 10 years, V.C. men's basketball was the hottest ticket in town.
MentorProgram: It has been written that the foundation of Phil's program is his conviction that athletic success and academic success go hand in hand. With assistance of Athletic Counselor Becky Hull, this program was designed to help players more easily transition into the community college culture. Primarily focused on academics, the program also helped players from other parts of the country assimilate to life in Ventura.
Away Games: It didn't matter where the games were played, south to Irvine or north to Cuesta, there were always as many, oftentimes more, V.C. fans in attendance than local fans.
After leaving V.C., Phil served for nine years as the men's basketball coach at the University of San Francisco where he compiled a 140-120 record. Phil's first two teams at USF were loaded with former V.C. players, led by Hakim Ward. In 1998, USF won the conference championship and played in college basketball's biggest arena: the NCAA Tournament.
From 2004-2006, Phil coached at San Bernardino Valley College. His 2004 team made it to the state finals.
Phil is currently an assistant coach with the University of Nebraska basketball team.