Whether or not it will make a difference on the field in some sort of “win one for the Joker” way is yet to be seen, but according to recently-fired Kentucky coach Joker Phillips it was his seniors who persuaded him to coach UK’s final two games of the season. In fact, a number of players — like O-lineman Zach West — have said that the team is “upset” right now over their coach’s ouster.
Phillips admitted yesterday when meeting with the press that he still wants Senior Night against Samford on Saturday to be about his players, not him:
“I don’t want to be sent out. I don’t want an open casket. I don’t want to be somebody’s centerpiece. … I want it to be about those seniors…
(Several players told him) ‘Hey, Coach, you said you want to help watch us grow up.’ And that’s the reason I’m doing this. The only reason.”
The coach also had a few words for the UK fanbase. Phillips suggested he knew he was finished when he saw a practically empty Commonwealth Stadium for last week’s loss to Vanderbilt.
In Phillips’ view, that’s no way to build a program:
“I was hoping to have a good career, hoping to be an asset to this place, and I feel like after 20-something-plus years that I have been, regardless of what other people might think…
“We all have a hand if we want this thing to succeed. We all have a hand in making sure this thing succeeds. It’s not moaning and groaning when we don’t get the results…
(An empty stadium) is not the way you build a program. Everybody’s involved in building a program, especially building a program here. They have to stay behind this team. They have to come out in droves to support this team.”
Phillips remained classy throughout the media session saying that he had enough facilities to sell UK, that the Cats need a top quarterback to be successful (and that Max Smith’s injury made him unavailable), and he wouldn’t set bowl-game expectations for 2013 and his successor.
In fact, he gave the fanbase and media one more words of advice on how to back his replacement: “Again, give them time.”
Phillips — who has spent two decades in Lexington as a Wildcat player, assistant, coordinator, and coach-in-waiting — was fired after two seasons and 10 games as head coach.