Mike Larson, a charismatic assistant coach at Phillips who played an integral role in the greatest run of playoff success in Public League football history, died unexpectedly on Monday.
He was 38.
Larson came to Phillips from Orr in 2011 as the sophomore coach, but he was soon promoted to varsity defensive coordinator.
In the past seven seasons, the Wildcats have two state titles — the first in Public League history — along with a runner-up finish, a semifinal appearance and three quarterfinal berths.
“He was my best friend.” an emotional Phillips coach Troy McAllister said Tuesday night. “His heart has always been in the right spot.
“He is one of the most passionate, dedicated people you would ever meet.”
“He would always have your back.”
In 2014, McAllister resigned and accepted the head coaching job at Evergreen Park. Larson was announced as his successor, but when McAllister decided to remain at Phillips, Larsen slid back into his assistant role.
McAllister noted that while Phillips had success on offense early in his tenure, the Wildcats struggled defensively until Larson helped turn things around.
It wasn’t just about talent, McAllister said, though the Wildcats have sent a number of players on both sides of the ball to Division I programs.
“I don’t know how many people understand the science behind it,” McAllister said. “He was a great teacher … to get the most out of young men, (when sometimes) it’s hard to understand the greatness they have within.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
“The team is already trying to figure out what they can do to support the family in their time of need,” McAllister said.