Phipps balances high school coaching with playing pro lacrosse

Chesapeake goalkeeper Brian Phipps makes a save in the first quarter against the Florida Launch in their Major League Lacrosse game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

On May 2, Brian Phipps accomplished a feat that may have been a first in Major League Lacrosse history.

Phipps pulled a double-header at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium that day, coaching Archbishop Spalding in the opener then trading his clipboard for a goalie stick and starting between the pipes for the Chesapeake Bayhawks in the nightcap.


"It was a quick turnaround. I think there was about a half hour between when I took off my Spalding hat and strapped on my Bayhawks helmet," Phipps said.

Phipps had mixed feelings when all was said and done as Spalding lost to Mount St. Joseph in an MIAA A Conference contest played prior to Chesapeake's home opener. However, the Annapolis resident regrouped and stopped 11 shots to help the Bayhawks beat the Florida Launch.


It's been a busy spring for Phipps, who is juggling his responsibilities as head coach of boys lacrosse at Archbishop Spalding with playing professionally for Chesapeake. The 28-year-old is also teaching history at the Catholic school in Severn and is somewhat of a newlywed.

"It's definitely a crazy time of the year. I have to be focused and organized because I want to give a great effort in every area of my life," said Phipps, who got married just over a year ago.

Simultaneously coaching and playing is a little less difficult now that Phipps plays for Chesapeake, which will try to stay unbeaten when it hosts the Boston Cannons on Thursday night. Last year, Phipps was with the Ohio Machine and therefore had to travel every weekend.

"It's definitely more convenient to be with the Bayhawks. It was tough having to fly to Ohio so much and sometimes missing days of school," he said.

Not that Phipps isn't appreciative of his four-year tenure with the Machine, for whom he blossomed into a top-flight MLL netminder. The Severn School product started 25 games, played 1,462 minute and amassed 310 saves in helping Ohio make consecutive playoff appearances in 2014 and 2015.

"I really developed and improved the past two seasons," Phipps said. "I'm coming off my best year in Major League Lacrosse and kind of feel like I'm in my prime."

Chesapeake management agreed, which is why president Dave Cottle and head coach Brian Reese traded a second round pick in the MLL Collegiate Draft for Phipps. The Bayhawks subsequently dealt Tyler Fiorito, the team's starting goalie last season, to the Cannons.

It was a homecoming for Phipps, who was drafted by the Bayhawks in 2010 out of the University of Maryland. He started 10 games for Chesapeake as a rookie in 2011 and made the All-Star team, showing enough promise for the Machine to take him in the ninth round of the MLL Expansion Draft.


"I've known Brian since we were about 12 years old and he's always been a phenomenal goalie," said Chesapeake defenseman Michael Evans, who played for Davidsonville when Phipps was with the Annapolis Youth Lacrosse Association (AYLA). "I thought Brian grew a lot while he was with Ohio, to the point he is now established as one of the best goalies in the league."

Phipps has been solid through two games with Chesapeake, ranking among the MLL leaders with a .532 save percentage and 12.1 goals-against average.

"Brian has been very steady back there. He's a great communicator and a strong leader," Coach Reese said. "Brian has been a playoff goalie in this league so he has the experience you want at that position. He understands what offenses are trying to do and knows the shooters."

Reese pointed out that Phipps as been at his best down the stretch so far this season, making numerous clutch stops late in close victories at Atlanta and versus Florida.

"I think Brian is a calming presence in the cage. He seems to make big saves when the team really needs them," Reese said.

Wilson Phipps, a goalie at Severn School and University of Maryland, taught his son the finer points of the position. Brian Phipps came under the tutelage of another veteran goalie coach at Severn in Drew Larkin. He received a graduate degree in goaltending by attending camps run by current Loyola head coach Charley Toomey and always had a warmup partner in older brother Michael Phipps, a standout attackman at Severn and Maryland who is now an assistant coach at Navy.


"I've had a rivalry going with my brother since we were little kids in the backyard," Brian said. "He's always been the one to shoot on me and make me better."

Brian and Michael Phipps are following a family tradition by coaching lacrosse. Their grandfather, Buster Phipps, was an assistant at Navy under the legendary Willis Bilderback from 1959-1972. Wilson Phipps also spent time as an assistant at Navy before coaching his sons at both AYLA and Severn School.

"My dad is a lacrosse junkie. He just loves the game," Brian Phipps said.

Wilson Phipps, a founding partner of Severn Financial Group, is currently serving as an assistant at Archbishop Spalding for his younger son.

Brian Phipps is hoping to anchor a powerful defense that leads Chesapeake back to the playoffs following a two-year absence. He already feels comfortable playing behind a close unit comprised of Evans, Jesse Bernhardt and Kyle Sweeney.

"I played with Mike Evans my first year with the Bayhawks and had Jesse as a teammate at Maryland so I know those guys well," Phipps said. "Add in Kyle Sweeney and you have a really talented, very veteran defense. I'm fortunate to have such a strong group in front of me."


Phipps is planning to continue coaching high school lacrosse while playing the sport professionally for a few more years.

"It's great to say you played at the highest level against the best players in the world," he said. "I'll stick with it as long as I'm having fun and still performing at a high level, provided life doesn't get too hectic."