OGDEN -- On Friday, Ogden High coach Phil Russell was honored with his name on a plaque, on a gymnasium floor and on a day.
Russell, an OHS teacher and coach for more than four decades, received a plaque presented by Mayor Matthew Godfrey, who proclaimed the day Phil Russell Day in Ogden. School officials then revealed a new logo, officially naming the space the Phil Russell Basketball Court.
"He's Mr. Ogden High," said Dave Nordquist, former OHS athletic director, one of dozens of former and current administrators who attended the assembly along with Russell's family, many of his former players, and the school's current student body of about 1,100.
"Besides basketball, he coached football, baseball and softball," Nordquist said. "He swept the old gym floor more times than anyone will ever sweep any floor. This is quite an honor for him."
The school band played, the chorus sang, colleagues praised Russell, and the crowd viewed a playful video about the coach, documenting his unwavering support of students, his fondness for showing in-class videos, and his frequent and spirited use of mild cuss words.
"He is Ogden High," said John Rancifer, 17 and OHS student body president. "He's the greatest guy you'll ever want to meet."
Russell was overwhelmed.
"I knew they were going to name the court after me, but had no idea they were going to conduct such an assembly as big as that," he said.
Russell is currently the school's athletic director and for 38 years has served as the girl's basketball coach. He also has taught American history, sociology, and has been a drivers' education teacher for 20 years. His girls' basketball teams have logged 502 wins, five state championships and 10 regional championships.
"I've always been a really good girls' basketball coach, because I cry like they do," an emotional Russell told the assembly, joking as he struggled to keep his voice from cracking. "I can't express how grateful I am for this honor."
Michele Slama, No. 21 on the 1979 team that was first to win a state championship, showed up to honor her former coach.
"He's an amazing man, and everything he taught us came from his heart," she said. "He taught us about discipline, integrity and life."
Former player Kelly Vause Afuvai, who played on a team with her sisters Emily Vause Oyler and Sarah Vause Snow, said Russell's influence had a lasting effect.
"He changed my life," Afuvai said. "He was a second father to me, because of his love and support. Even his constructive criticism helped shape me into who I am today."
Jim Sandoval, Ogden High principal from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, said Russell became an ally in creating a school atmosphere of respect.
"I was sent here as a disciplinarian, when the student body was running the school," Sandoval said. "Mr. Russell was respected by students, and the respect was mutual."
Russell said he always makes a point of greeting students in the hallways.
"It's important to say hello," Russell said. "I greet as many students as I can every day. I say, 'Hello, ladies,' or 'Hello, gentlemen,' and I ask how their weekend was. For some kids, it may be the only conversation they have all day."
Russell, 65, said he hopes to stay with the school at least two more years, to see his current sophomore players through graduation.
"I'm not retiring yet," he said. "People asked if I was going to retire when I hit 500 wins, and they asked me if I was going to retire when they heard the basketball court was being named after me. Now (retiring Jazz coach) Jerry Sloan is putting a lot of pressure on me, and people are asking again. But I'm not leaving yet. You're going to see me around here a little longer."