Phillips Says He Owes It To Players To Finish Season
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Joker Phillips says he struggled with the idea of coaching the last two games of Kentucky’s football season after being informed he would not be back in 2013. At a post-practice press conference Tuesday Phillips said he thought about walking away now but felt like he needed to do right by his players.
“But many of those guys I’d set in their homes and told them that I wanted them, and I used this as a selling tool…I want to watch you grow up. That’s a selling tool of mine. I don’t know how many other coaches say that. I want to watch you grow up. And you know what? I heard that from them. That’s the reason why I’m back. Hey coach, you said you wanted to watch us grow up. That’s the reason I’m doing this.”
Phillips says he has no hard feelings toward his alma mater, only gratitude for having the opportunity to coach the Wildcats for three seasons.
“I came here as an 18 year old kid, this place turned me into a man the first time and then this time all it did was strengthen me as a man. It gave me strength. It made me understand how important character is.”
He also told reporters on Tuesday he would have been able to right the ship if given more time.
“At the beginning of the year the thing I tried to stress to our staff was let’s show improvement and get us to ’13 because I thought ’13 would be the year that we have an opportunity to make a huge move and I thought we could show improvement this year and in the first three games we showed improvement offensively.”
But losing starting quarterbacks Max Smith and Patrick Towles to injuries put his team in a hole they couldn’t dig out of. Phillips acknowledged that Saturday’s sparsely-attended 40-0 home loss to Vanderbilt represented a tipping point for the program.
“I get what we saw Saturday. I get that, and that’s a huge part of it. This is a result based business; you measure it by that and we didn’t get the results quick enough.”
The Wildcats have an opportunity to finish a disappointing season strong with games against Samford and Tennessee.