KirbyPhilllipsKirby Phillips had already enjoyed coaching success with the Salem Wildcats football underclassmen when he became the head coach of the boys track program in 1985. Two year later Phillips added head coach of the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats cross country teams to his duties. When Phillips stepped away from those positions after the 2001-02 school year, he had taken each of those programs to heights not previously achieved.

While his first Salem boys track team in 1985 came up short at the North Egypt Conference Meet, his squads came back to win the title in each of the next 16 seasons. Phillips’ greatest success with the Wildcats track program came in 1999 when Salem grabbed a share of the Class AA Murphysboro Sectional championship. That remains as the program’s only sectional title. That 1999 team later finished fourth at the state meet. During Phillips’ track tenure Salem qualified more than 30 individuals and 15 relay teams for the Class AA state meet in a two-class system.

JanetHolstWhen Janet Holst-Behrens arrived in Salem in 1995, she also inherited a Lady Wildcat basketball program that had posted just one winning season in the previous 14 years. Twenty-one years later Holst-Behrens has built a model of consistent success and took the program to levels it had never reached before.

Prior to her stop at Salem, Holst had put together a highly successful stint at Newcomb, New Mexico where she compiled a 134-60 record during her eight seasons there, which included four straight 20 win seasons. It took a little while for Holst to rebuild the Salem program, as her first three teams combined for a 33-46 record. Starting in the 1998-99 season her teams had winning campaigns in 17 of the next 18 years, which included twelve 20 win seasons. Her teams won six conference championships, a run that began when it claimed the North Egypt Conference championship in 1999 when it compiled a perfect 14-0 record. That was the first conference title for the Lady Wildcats in 20 years. After Salem moved to the Apollo Conference for the 2003-2004 school year, her teams won the title in 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012.

suzanne_henry_brownWhen Suzanne (Henry) Brown left Salem Community High School in 2000, she left with her a long list
of coaching accomplishments.

During her 20 years of coaching at SCHS, Brown was either a head coach or assistant coach on 41 North Egypt Conference championship teams.

A 1975 graduate of SCHS, Brown began her coaching career in the fall of 1980 as assistant volleyball coach to Pam (McCartney) Raymer. Brown held that position until 1988 when she succeeded Raymer as head coach.

joe_thomasOne of the most successful gridiron coaches in Salem Community High School history, Joe Thomas was the fifth football coach inducted into the Hall of Fame. He joins fellow SCHS pigskin coaches Fred Corray, Howard Thurman, Kenny Farrar and Van Howe.

Thomas ranks third on the school list in both NEC career coaching victories with 40 and overall victories with 47. His .653 career winning percentage ranks fifth behind Kenny Farrar (.765), Chuck Budde (.711), Scott Steward (.700) and Howard Thurman (.683).

Known for his color and toughness on the field, Thomas coached at SCHS from 1959-66 and during that time guided two conference champions. His 1961 Wildcats shared the league crown with Carmi, while the 1965 team won the title outright. Twenty years would pass before Salem would win another NEC championship.

bob_fralaAn all-around athlete in high school, one of the inductees into the Salem Sports Hall of Fame in 1987 continued to gain prominence and honors in the sports world on the coaching level. A 1949 SCHS graduate, Bob Frala was a three sports star in his high school years.

In tandem with Jim Bredar, as the “Gold Dust Twins”, Frala started on a road to successful ventures in the sports world in football, basketball and track as a member of Wildcat athletic teams.

After graduation, he attended the University of Illinois, concentrating on the coaching aspects of sports. While at Illinois, Illini Coach Ray Eliot said that “Bob Frala has one of the most comprehensive notebooks on football I have received from all of my classes.”


howard_thurmanThe Salem coach who changed the complexion of the game for Wildcat football followers and the only coach to win conference titles in the three major sports, Howard G. Thurman, had a tie-in and, as he said, “a love affair with,” Salem sports that spanned seven decades.

A 1930 graduate of Salem High School during which time he participated in football and track, Coach Thurman installed the split-T formation in 1952 for the first time in Salem. During his seven seasons as football coach, the Wildcats won two North Egypt Conference crowns, finished second five times and ended with a 35-7-2 NEC mark and a 42-19-2 overall record. Thurman-coached teams won the championship in 1952 and again in 1956.

Although they finished second in 1953, losing to Lawrenceville 19-18 in the opener. Salem went on to eight straight wins, capping a record-setting 348-point season with a resounding 55-13 romp over Mt. Vernon in the finale.


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