Kokomo Schools sends its warmest thoughts and prayers to the family of Phil Cox and his wife, Darlene.
Coach Cox passed away Tuesday, June 19, and left a legacy of service, love, and friendship during his 34 years within the Kokomo School Corporation.
Cox earned Mr. Basketball honors for Connersville High School in 1972 but was quick to note that he also won several gold medals for his choir performances while at Connersville. Cox loved sharing the story of his exploits at the 1972 state basketball championship game in IU’s Assembly Hall when a teenage Cox sang the National Anthem pregame, won the opening game tip, and then scored the first two points en route to Connersville’s 80-63 victory.
Through the years, Kokomo sporting fans have enjoyed hearing Cox sing the National Anthem.
Following is a tribute to Cox through the thoughts and words of some of his Kokomo Schools friends and mentors – many of whom Cox called “boss.” Like his “bosses,” many Kokomo fans learned that being friends with Cox equaled a life-long relationship.
A young Cox came to Kokomo with the then new Wildkats basketball coach Basil Mawbey in 1986.
“And 34 years later, Phil was still at Kokomo Schools helping kids, and that tells you a lot about the person,” Coach Basil Mawbey said. “Everywhere Phil went, a smile was on his face; and anyone he spoke to felt good after being around Phil.”
One of the kids "helped” by Cox during the “Future Wildkat” basketball camps in the '80s was Jason Snyder. Snyder grew up to become the Kokomo High School athletic director and a mentor to Coach Cox, even though, Snyder will remind people that Cox never stopped “teaching” and/or “coaching” Snyder.
“I remember those basketball camps in the '80s. Coach Cox would line us up as groups and then lead the way. We would follow Coach Cox anywhere,” Snyder said. “Coach Cox had an infectious energy, and anyone walking past Memorial Gym any summer day could hear Coach Cox and his campers yell together: ‘I love this game!’”
Snyder added that Cox will be missed by the Kokomo School Corporation, as well as thousands in the Kokomo community.
“So many community members remember the energy and enthusiasm that Phil Cox shared each and every day, just like he did at Memorial Gym those 30 some years ago,” Snyder said. “Phil Cox did so much for so many people in his 34 years with Kokomo Schools. More telling of the legacy Phil Cox leaves are the relationships. Time spent with Coach Cox was always special; his passion and energy made an impression, and I guarantee you people of all ages and backgrounds are missing our good friend Phil Cox.”
One of those people is former KHS Athletic Director Jim Callane, who cited Cox as a very special person.
“Phil had a very positive influence on the students at Kokomo High School and had a sincere interest in seeing that all students succeeded,” Callane said. “Those who had the pleasure to work with Phil Cox in the athletic department admired Phil’s passion and dedication. Our school, our community, and our state has lost a true legend.”
Current School Board President Marsha Bowling echoed Callane’s sentiments.
“Phil Cox was a pillar of what caring about young people was all about,” Bowling said. “Coach Cox used his basketball and athletic skills to mold young people’s lives. Phil had a heart big enough to embrace all people no matter where they came from. Truly, our school corporation, our community, and his family have lost a great profile in courage.”
Current Kokomo High School Girls’ Basketball coach Troy White has considered Cox a “trusted mentor” since White started coaching in 1993.
“Phil always wanted student-athletes to have the opportunity to go to college and grow into strong women and men,” White said. “I remember how pleased Phil was when Kokomo High School started taking our young football players to the Indiana University games so our players could experience what it took to play at the collegiate level. ‘PC’ touched many lives with his kind heart. I hope the way Phil Cox treated other people will continue spreading forever throughout our community.”
Kokomo School Corporation Director of Operations Mike Wade remembered many “serious conversations” with Cox during his tenure as Kokomo High School athletic director and when they coached boys’ basketball together.
“I loved Phil Cox. Godspeed to Phil’s family and his friends,” Wade said. “Three things are for sure: Heaven received a quality addition to its choir; some athletic angels are getting dunked on; and heaven’s buffet table is getting slammed.”
Another former KHS athletic director, Ron Barsh, said Cox was a loyal friend.
“I am so glad our paths crossed and for the wonderful memories,” Barsh said. “Phil Cox will be missed by all who knew him.”
Current Kokomo Boys’ Basketball Coach Bob Wonnell described Cox as “a ton of fun.”
“Phil never had a bad day,” Coach Wonnell said. “His love for the game of basketball was unmatched.”
Even though they coached together for only one basketball season, it was an unforgettable experience.
“I learned a ton from Phil Cox,” Wonnell said. “What made Coach Cox’s life so impressive were the number of lives Phil touched. Whether you knew Phil Cox for 10 years, one year, or 20 minutes; you would have to be blind to not see his impact on this community’s youth.”
KHS Principal Angela Blessing described Cox as the embodiment of the Wildkats’ mantra: “Legacy Matters.”
“Phil Cox’s impact in the hallways, the classrooms, and the basketball courts at Kokomo High School was measured in the positive relationships Phil forged with our students and his colleagues,” Blessing said. “A true Wildkat.”
Assistant Superintendent Mike Sargent was one of those Kokomo youth impacted at a young age by Cox.
“As a football player at the downtown campus, I remember nothing but positivity coming my way from Coach Cox,” Sargent said. “When I became a Kokomo coach, I remembered to treat all players equally and to be positive. Then as an educator, and even now as an administrator, I am reminded how important it is to help our students be active in their school. Phil Cox truly understood what an impact an adult could make on students through athletics, extra-curricular, and co-curricular participation.”
Cynthia Evans, who Cox described as his “main boss,” cited Cox as a “dedicated, hard-working employee who served all Kokomo families with dignity, caring, and respect.”
Evans, the director of social and student services, noted that Cox served the Kokomo community as an attendance officer (34 years), a coach, a minister, and a musician whose instrument was his singing voice.
“I am grateful to have known Phil Cox and feel blessed that Phil was a member of our Social and Student Services team,” Evans said.