Philip Ponder begins his 15th season as head coach and 21st season overall at Oglethorpe. When he was named head coach in March 2003, he became one of the youngest head coaches in the school's basketball history and the youngest coach in the conference. The Stormy Petrels have become one of the top teams in the SAA under his leadership.
Having taken over a team that had finished last or next-to-last for four consecutive seasons, he immediately turned the Petrels' fortunes around, leading the team all the way to the conference championship game in his first year at the helm. In his second season, the Petrels won their most games in six years and achieved their highest regular season conference finish in seven years. The program has continued its upward trajectory, and in the 2013-14 season, the Petrels won a modern school record 21 games, and reached a high ranking of No. 21 in the nation after starting the season 14-1. The season ended with an overtime loss in the SAA Championship game. During Ponder’s tenure, Oglethorpe has recorded the second most wins of any team in the conference. During the 2015-16 season, Ponder passed legendary coach Garland Pinholster to move into second on Oglethorpe’s all-time wins list, where he currently sits with 199 wins.
He has introduced an exciting up-tempo style of basketball that has helped the Stormy Petrels lead the conference in scoring, 3-pointers made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, turnover margin, assist-to-turnover ratio, steals, and turnovers forced, while breaking numerous school and conference records. The style of play is one that players love to play. In the 13-year period that Ponder has been head coach, Oglethorpe has scored more points, made more 3-pointers, forced more turnovers, and recorded more steals than any team in the conference. This new, unique, and exciting style, as well as the renewed winning, has helped attendance almost triple since he took over.
Ponder has made it a point to try to make an impact on his players off the court, as well. From his very first season, the team has been involved in giving back to the community. In the fall of 2003, the Stormy Petrels worked with the Chastain Horse Park riding program, which serves kids with cognitive, physical, and emotional disabilities. For 11 years, the men's basketball program partnered with the Brookhaven Boys and Girls Club, giving scholarships for the annual summer camp and volunteering hundreds of hours with the after-school program. For their efforts, the men's basketball team was awarded in October 2006 with the Volunteer of the Year award for the entire metro Atlanta area, which covers over 25 counties. Last year, the team began a new outreach program with the nearby PATH Academy, where players worked as classroom assistants, one on one mentors, and worked with the school’s basketball club.
Professionally, Ponder is one of the co-founders of the Georgia Basketball Coaches Association (GABCA) and currently serves as president of the organization. He is also a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). He has served three years on the NCAA’s Regional Advisory Committee and has been named the Division III State Coach of the Year on three occasions.
Ponder served as an assistant coach for eight years under five different head coaches at three different programs. Prior to coming to Oglethorpe, he was the assistant coach at Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia. He was hired to Oglethorpe by former head coach and athletic director Jack Berkshire in the summer of 1997 as a graduate assistant. Upon Berkshire's retirement, he was promoted to top assistant under new head coach Jim Owen, and held that position for five years. He played for and graduated from Reinhardt College and LaGrange College. He received his master's degree from Oglethorpe.