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Joker Phillips says he “didn’t have time” to implement program at Kentucky


It’s been five years since he’s been at Kentucky, but after four different coaching stops, Joker Phillips has finally found a home in Cincinnati.

In an interview with Cincinnati.com, Phillips discussed his time in Lexington, recent coaching moves, and the development he’s seeing as the wide receivers coach for the Bearcats.

Phillips said he has no regrets and appreciates the opportunity he had with the program, but mentioned he didn’t have enough time to implement the program in Kentucky.

“It was a great opportunity,” Phillips said. “A lot of things have to be lined up at a place like that, similar to this. You’ve got to have time to implement your program. We just didn’t have that, and I get that. The opportunity was a great opportunity for me, my family and the staff I put together. We’ve moved on from that and tried to help other places out.”

Phillips became the Bearcats’ WR coach back in January, and he believes it’s been nothing but positive in his first seven months on the job.

“It’s been a great experience,” Phillips said. “Coming back and seeing all the improvements that the program has made facility-wise and that the city has made, and also the university.”

Phillips was on the Cincinnati staff back in 1997 and 1998, but the former Kentucky coach says it’s a whole new ball game being there now.

“It’s a different job than it was 20 years ago,” Phillips said. “Being with coach Fickell, I’m not chasing any goals and I’m not chasing bigger money. I’m chasing good people, and I’m with a good person. I’m happy to be here with him.”

For Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, Phillips brings the experience necessary to take the next big steps to building a program.

“You need those guys on your staff that have obviously been in this situation, been in this position, been a head coach,” Fickell said.

You can hear everything Fickell had to say about Phillips being on the Bearcat staff here:

Above all else, it’s great to see Phillips taking a break from the creepy recruiting tactics he created at Florida:

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter at @JackPilgrimKSR

16 responses to “Joker Phillips says he “didn’t have time” to implement program at Kentucky”

  1. Sergeant

    I am glad he is back coaching college again. I hope it works out for him. Not sure why everyone loves to pile on him so much. Sure you would love to have all your failures and dumb decisions put on the internet from your home state folks at every chance.

    1. TBW3011

      He sunk the program and never should’ve been hired to begin with? Other than that I’m not sure either.

  2. Loserville Hater

    If Joker claims not to have had enough time to build his program, then the questions are…Was the program in better shape when he was fired than when he was hired? Was the program getting better or worse? Would more time under his leadership led to improvement? I think we all remember the answers.

  3. WizardWCN

    “Not sure why everyone loves to pile on him so much” . Because he has bad mouth UK, used neg. recruiting against UK, tried to steal players committed to UK, took UK from being mid level SEC team to a team that had trouble beating a low level OVC school. He was set up for success, and got rid of the coaches that brought the success to bring in his buddies. Tee Martin has been better to UK then joker has been in the past 5 years.

  4. PickBlue

    I was ready for him to take the blue off when he was still OC after he pulled Cobb during what should have been the game winning drive against UT saying that “he was tired”. I knew we weren’t going to get along right then and there. Should have won that game…

    1. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

      Yes, and I believe there was a Miss St. game we lost where Cobb didn’t touch the ball when we had the ball close to the goal line with a chance to score late for the win. Or, I may be confusing that with the UT game, because there was also a game where we should have gone for it on 4th down late and that may have been Miss St (whoever the opponent was, Joker was HC at the time).

  5. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

    Joker, I like you, but I’m sorry. You were handed a program that had been turned around and was winning. You didn’t need to implement your program. You just needed to stay the course. Improve and put your own stamp on the program to a certain extent? Yes. Reinvent the wheel? No.

    1. Kentucky Packrat

      If I could push the Like button for Chris a thousand times, I would.

      I hate the “head coach in waiting” concept. It locks the new coach 100% percent into the old system, and if he doesn’t like someone or part of the system, he’s forced to try to make incremental changes that end up ruining the program. If Joker thought UK’s system was broken, then it was broken while he was an assistant, but as head coach in waiting it was unofficially his system too.

      If Joker didn’t want to be Rich Brooks Jr, he should have refused the head coach in waiting position and gotten his head coaching job the old fashioned way. Now too many people out there think he’s under the Dilbert Principle (promoted beyond his competence at UK) to get another Division I HC job (at least for 5 years or more).

    2. foamfinger

      Yep, I agree with that 100%. When I heard he had fired half of the coaches, I knew we were going to be in trouble.

    3. TBW3011

      Not to mention he was coach in waiting for a year or two right? That was the transition period. The whole reason for a coach in waiting is the minimal change that has to occur when you take the reigns. He just isn’t a good head coach. People can disagree, but I don’t get the hype as an OC either.

  6. ClutchCargo

    If his system was designed to lose 12 games every year, then the program was well on its way. Actually, I blame this on Barnhart more than Joker. Hire a guy who has at least been part of a successful program, and you might have a chance.

  7. StuckinLville

    The team was in good shape when you took over, Joker. Every year after it went downhill. There is no one to blame but yourself.

  8. Pike

    Joker’s comments are laughable. Loserville Hater and Chris above said it perfect. Just look at the attendance at his last few home games and that tells the story. Joker was awful and was fired in the nick of time.

  9. Sentient Third Eye

    I like Joker. I’ve met him, and he’s a great guy, but this argument he makes is ridiculous. He inherited the program at a 45-year high and proceeded to drive it into the ground by not maintaining the recruiting level he inherited. Again, Joker is a great guy, and he was a great offensive coordinator, but he was a lousy head coach.

  10. RackEmWillie

    Joker was/is a nice person. And, he’s the type of guy you would want to be the head coach of your program, strictly speaking on the basis that he was a lifelong fan, former player and everything like that. He was UK to his core.

    But, he ultimately couldn’t get the job done at UK. For whatever the reasons may be, it just didn’t work. If it was scheme, strategy, staffing, recruiting, facilities, I don’t know. But the job wasn’t done. But, as far as the “piling on” statements, that seems silly. He works in an extremely public profession, where every decision is scrutinized regardless of outcome.

    I’ll give him the same treatment I would give any other coach of any other program. And I’m not going to be mad at him for recruiting against UK, because he’s doing what every other coach in the country does when UK’s name comes up with a recruit. The only difference is that he has a different take and view on the subject.

    I would have loved for Joker to have been successful at UK, because that would have been the perfect story, 100%. He wasn’t, the program moved on. He moved on. That’s the end of it.

    1. TBW3011

      Agreed other than I don’t think he’s moved on.