BY BILL PLOTT
Phil Lazenby learned some valuable lessons playing sports and serving in the military. He has spent his entire life in education sharing those lessons with the students he has been entrusted to coach.
Lazenby will be inducted as a member of the Class of 2019 into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame on March 18 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The AHSAA and AHSADCA founded the Hall of Fame in 1991.
Phil Lazenby graduated from Bessemer High school in 1968 and from Samford University in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in history and psychology. He also earned a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Montevallo in 1979.
He served his country in the United States Army, graduating first in his class from the Infantry School at Fort Benning (GA). During his service, he received two commendation medals and had tours of duty in Europe and Central America. He retired as a 1stSergeant, the second highest non-commissioned officer rank.
He began his teaching and coaching career at his old alma mater, which had been renamed Jess Lanier High School. He was an assistant football coach from 1976-80. He also coached varsity tennis and junior varsity basketball. He moved to Mountain Brook High School from 1981-90 where he served as an assistant football coach, defensive coordinator and assistant principal.
His accepted his first head-coaching job at Guntersville in 1991 and compiled a 38-18 record and won three regional titles in five seasons. Included were three state playoff appearances, advancing to the second round each year. Also, during his tenure at Guntersville, he was head track coach and taught Spanish, U.S. and World history and psychology.
In 1996 he became head football coach and assistant principal at Southside-Gadsden. He directed the Panthers to the state playoffs. He left the following year, however, and became head football coach at Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City. Over the next four years, his teams made four consecutive state playoff appearances, including two trips to the state finals, and went 41-12 overall. The Wildcats were also 10-4 in the state playoffs.
From Alexander City, he went to Mobile as an assistant football and strength coach under Hall of Fame Coach Terry Curtis at UMS-Wright. “I hired Phil to be the offensive line coach,” recalled Curtis. “We won three state championships in football while he served in this position.”
In 2007 he accepted the head football coach position at Bayside Academy in nearby Daphne, adding head golf coach in 2007 and athletic director duties in 2015. At Bayside he has compiled a record of 87-55. His teams have been in the playoffs nine times, including a runner-up in 2015. Lazenby’s overall head-coaching record is 172-91 – taking four different schools to the state playoffs and compiling a 27-17 playoff record in 17 trips over 23 years to the postseason.
Lazenby is among the most respected in the profession. “Every year when I attend the AHSAA Summer Conference, it amazes me the number of people that gravitate over to embrace Phil,” wrote Bayside Athletic Director Jamie Ferguson. “Whether they are former players who have become coaches or just coaches that Phil has worked with or against, they all embrace Coach Lazenby with affection. I can truly say that I have seen the impact that he has had on football, coaches, and more importantly our state.
“It has been an eye-opening experience to work alongside such an incredible man and coach. I have seen firsthand his influence on the Bayside Academy football program. Phil requires student-athletes to demand more of themselves and their teammates, both on and off the field. This is a vital life-lesson as these students are our country’s next generation. Phil is passionate about teaching respect – whether it is respecting one’s self, teammates, or opponents.”
Ferguson says Lazenby’s unselfishness makes a strong impact on others. “Phil does not carry out good deeds for any other reason than it is just the right thing to do,” he said. “Phil does not list his accomplishments on a resume as they are just ordinary aspects of his day-to-day life. I think it is safe to say that every program in which Coach Lazenby has been involved is a better program because of his influence.”
For all his coaching successes, AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said nothing compares to what happened one day at Bayside. “Phil’s legacy is not confined to his educational or military service only,” Savarese said. “Most importantly, his legacy involves saving someone’s life. One day at practice, Mark Lasseter, an assistant coach at Bayside Academy, had experienced cardiac arrest, and his heart had stopped. He was found lifeless by a student. Immediately after being notified of the situation, Phil began providing CPR and continued for over five minutes until an AED revived his heart. Because of his quick reaction, he saved Mark’s life! Phil epitomizes what every American should be, a servant to those he encounters, as well as, a professional in his craft.”
Bayside Head of School Michael Papa agrees. “No matter whether you have played for Phil or been a member of his coaching staff, he will leave you with a number of life lessons that you can take with you for the rest of your life. He shows us that your role is a single piece of a much bigger thing. Mistakes are inevitable, but your response to them in the moments that follow are what truly matters.”