The Florida Gators on Monday afternoon officially announced that former Kentucky Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips has been hired as the team’s new wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.
News of Phillips’s hiring first broke Monday morning. Florida confirmed hours later that he has agreed to join the program and will officially begin working for the team on Friday. The Gators coaching staff is currently out recruiting. It is expected to return to Gainesville, FL to begin practice on Dec. 14-15.
“We are excited to have Joker join our staff,” said head coach Will Muschamp in a school release. “His background as a head coach and the number of years he has coached wide receivers will be a tremendous asset to our coaching staff and players. Joker is obviously very familiar with the Southeastern Conference and has always done a great job in recruiting. Obviously I had a number of experiences with Joker both on and off the field, as our paths have crossed often, but I’ve been really impressed with Joker Phillips as a man during this hiring process.”
At 49 years old with 25 years of coaching experience, Phillips spent time coaching for five different teams with two separate stints at Kentucky.
After playing wide receiver for four years with the Wildcats (1981-84), two years with the NFL’s Washington Redskins (1985, 1987) and one year with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts (1986), he decided to get into coaching.
He began his career at UK as a graduate assistant from 1988-89 and became the assistant recruiting coordinator in 1990 before taking over the job of receivers coach from 1991-96. He then went to Cincinnati and coached receivers in 1997 and defensive backs in 1998. Phillips followed that gig up by coaching receivers at Minnesota (1999-2000), Notre Dame (2001) and South Carolina (2002) before returning to his alma mater and adding the job of recruiting coordinator, which he held from 2003-04.
Phillips was promoted to offensive coordinator and held that position from 2005-08. In 2009, his job title was reclassified as “head coach of offense” as the school determined that he would be the successor for Rich Brooks. He took over as head coach in 2010 and led the team to a 13-24 record over the last three seasons.
The second African-American head football coach in Southeastern Conference history, Phillips took the Wildcats to a bowl in 2010 but saw his win totals decrease each of the last two seasons. He was fired after the first 10 games of the 2012 campaign but agreed to stay on and coach the team for the duration of the season.
Though Phillips and Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease both coached at Kentucky, they did not do so together. The two seasons Pease spent at UK (2001-02) occurred while Phillips was coaching elsewhere. Muschamp coached against Phillips once in 2002; the former was defensive coordinator for LSU while the latter was coaching at South Carolina. The two were also on opposing staffs when Muschamp was a graduate assistant at Auburn in 1995.
“I’m thrilled to become part of the Gator family,” said Phillips in the same release. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compete and win at the highest level. I believe in Coach Muschamp’s philosophy and what he has done in his short time here at Florida is phenomenal. I’m looking forward to contributing to the long-term vision that he has for this program. In addition, it will be very rewarding to be involved in the hands-on development of the players I will coach.”
Phillips has had a hand in developing a number of extremely talented receivers including current NFL stars Stevie Johnson, Randall Cobb and tight end Jacob Tamme, former NFL pass catcher Troy Williamson, and SEC career receptions standouts Craig Yeast (No. 2), Derek Abney (No. 5) and Keenan Burton (No. 7).
He replaces Aubrey Hill, who served as the Gators’ wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator during Muschamp’s first season but resigned prior to the 2012 campaign. Florida’s pass catchers were coached by Pease and graduate assistant Bush Hamdan this past year.
Photo Credit: Kentucky.com