Even as the vultures circled over the dead man coaching tenure of Joker Phillips, there was one constant in the discussion of the coach’s future at Kentucky: he is one of the finest men at any level of coaching anyone’s ever been associated with.
Those vultures finally and officially came home to roost Sunday, with the Wildcats announcing that Phillips will not return as head coach in 2013. A search for a replacement will commence immediately, and Phillips is expected to finish out the final two games of the 2012 season.
In the aftermath of his dismissal, Phillips issued a statement through the school addressing the termination. And, for lack of a better way to put it, you’d be hard-pressed to find a classier exit from a man who played and coached at UK school for a total of more than two decades.
Here’s Phillips’ statement, in its entirety, and I defy you to not feel a twinge or two or eight of sadness as you read his words:
We, as coaches, are measured on results. We didn’t get the results we had worked and hoped for, therefore change is needed. In my current 10-year stay at Kentucky, we’ve had some memorable moments as an assistant, coordinator and head coach. We’ve had the opportunity to coach some fine young men and I am grateful to have had the privilege of watching them grow as players, as students and as people.
I am very appreciative of Mitch Barnhart and Rich Brooks for providing the opportunity to have been the head coach here. Mitch is the best athletic director I’ve ever been associated with. He’s fair and honest and he’s “all in” in terms of student-athletes’ well-being. Rich is the best mentor a young coach could ever have. I learned a lot from him in terms of plowing ahead. They are dear friends. Dr. Lee Todd and Dr. Eli Capilouto have both been very supportive. I appreciate the Big Blue Nation and encourage the fans to stay behind their team going forward.
I love our players and am proud to be associated with them. I expect them to continue the behavior we have asked of them academically, socially and with football. I’m thankful for the staff’s hard work, dedication, and what they have done in coaching and mentoring the players. I’d like to thank my wife and family for all their support and for being behind me 100 percent.