The Kentucky fanbase is finally united! They all want Joker Phillips gone. I think I was the last person off the bandwagon, having joined the vast majority of fans who have weighed and judged Phillips. Now we can all fracture over who gets hired next! Just kidding. I won’t be speculating replacement coaches until Joker Phillips is fired/resigns. For now he is still the head coach of my UK Wildcats.
“But Darren,” you say,” it is only a matter of time. Surely Mitch will do the right thing and fire Joker. Have you seen some of these blowouts?” I am well aware of how the season has unfolded and I agree that this program needs a new direction. A new head coach is a start, although the problems run deeper. Including Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart.
You see, Barnhart doesn’t want to fire Phillips. I wrote about this a few weeks ago and have received confirmation from my limited sources inside the program. Barnhart is looking for any reason to retain his friend. Injuries are helping his case, but a 2 win season likely won’t allow it. He also wants to avoid paying $2.5 million to get rid of him. That might eat into other programs budgets.
I fully expect Phillips to coach through the end of the season and I have no problem with that. I’m not in a hurry to see David Turner as interim coach. What I don’t agree with is the silence on Joker’s future. If he is coming back, it’s disappointing, but go ahead and announce it. Otherwise other staffs will have an ace up their sleeves in recruiting until we know something.
If the decision has been made to fire Joker, then announce it on Monday. At that point Kentucky can get serious about contacting and negotiating with potential candidates. Most ethical coaches won’t negotiate (or do radio interviews) with a school that still has a coach in place. Look no further than Tennessee to see why UK needs to get in on a coaching search early. Derek Dooley is the perfect example of what happens when you drag your feet during a coaching search.
Unless Phillips is kept and subsequently has a dynamite year in 2013, the next coaching search may be the most important in the history of Kentucky football. A solid hire gets the team back on the rise. A cheap/lackluster hire kills what fan support is less and Kentucky football sinks to levels it may never recover from. This year is bad, but much of it is the product of injuries and playing youngsters who should have had more time to learn. A good staff could come in here and win quickly with the talent on this roster. That may be the most damning evidence of the current regime.
It’s unlikely that we find anything out Monday. That wouldn’t be the Kentucky way. It may still mean that Barnhart has yet to make up his mind. Either way, it’s hurting the program. You can just hear the rest of the SEC saying “Oh, that’s so Kentucky of them.”