Franklin, Ky. native Joker Phillips has spent roughly 23 years at the University of Kentucky in a playing or coaching capacity.
Joker Phillips has spent roughly 23 years at UK as both a player and coach.
Phillips will coach his last home game as coach of the Wildcats Saturday versus Samford but he has left a lasting impression on those that he has met.
Several Kentucky high school head football coaches shared their thoughts and memories of Phillips with CatsPause.com.
Frankfort (Ky.) Franklin County head coach, Chris Tracy, was first introduced to Phillips back in the early days of his coaching career.
"I have known Joker for a long time. I met him when I was a first year head coach at Woodford County. I had Sterling Ward on my staff there. He played at UK when Joker was a [graduate assistant]. He introduced us. From that point on, he always remembered my name. Every time he saw me, he would call me by name," Tracy said. "That impressed me so much. Think about how many coach's names he's been through."
Paducah (Ky.) Tilghman head coach, Randy Wyatt, also shared a favorable impression of Phillips and feels that the former head man had a tough job.
"First of all, I think coach Phillips is an awesome individual who has high standards and strong character. Coach Phillips had one of the toughest jobs in college football. Coaching in the SEC is a tough job," Wyatt said. "But doing it with key injuries and playing a lot of freshmen makes it tougher."
Oliver Lucas, the head coach of Louisville (Ky.) duPont Manual, felt that Phillips could have done a better job recruiting the state.
"Joker has always been a stand off person, but has treated me with respect. I felt that Joker didn't do a great job of recruiting his own state. Players from outside the state are a must also but you build your program from your own state," Lucas said.
The stigma of being a basketball school has followed Kentucky football for years and some still feel that it could be a factor in the struggles.
"I think people lose the fact that we coach a game. We coach kids for the most part. I am not sure that he was given the tools to succeed at UK," Tracy said. "I am not sure that the football situation is on par with the basketball situation."
Lexington (Ky.) Christian head football coach, Ray Graham, believes that Phillips is a good football coach despite what the record may indicate.
"Joker was very good to the high school coaches. I think Joker loves UK football and he did a great job as a recruiter and offensive coordinator with [Rich] Brooks. He knows football," Graham said. "The staffs that he served on as an assistant put him in great football company. The SEC is very unforgiving to injuries. I admire the way he has handled everything."
Wyatt feels that Phillips, maybe, deserved another year to right the ship.
"In my opinion, I wish they would have let him finish out his contract, so he can prove he can win in the SEC," Wyatt said. "I am grateful coach Phillips gave two of my former athletes, Josh Forrest and J.D. Harmon, a chance to play for a great man."
Tracy thought that athletic director, Mitch Barnhart, may give him another year.
"When I saw the empty seats in the stadium versus Vandy, I thought that the end may be near," Tracy said. "Barnhart is a loyal guy. I thought he may give him another year."
Regardless of his record on the field, Phillips will always be remembered for the friendships that he made off the field. Steve Lovelace, the head coach for Hopkinsville (Ky.) Christian County, is just one of the many that considers Phillips a friend.
"I have a lot of respect for Joker as a coach, recruiter and friend," Lovelace said. "He will be missed by a lot of people."
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