Joker Phillips’ career with the Kentucky Wildcats spanned parts of four decades including 23 seasons and hundreds of games as a player, graduate assistant, assistant coach, coordinator and head coach.
On Saturday, for just the second time in his 26-year coaching career, Phillips will step foot into Commonwealth Stadium as a visitor, an unwelcome guest looking to earn a victory with his new team, the Florida Gators.
Due to program regulations, Phillips – a position coach – was not made available to speak with the media, so he could not directly discuss his thoughts and feelings entering Saturday’s contest. But other coaches and players provided were able to provide their opinions on his behalf.
“I know as a player and a coach there, as a coordinator and a head coach, there’s no question I’m sure he’ll be emotional about that. Any time you spend a lot of time at a place, as much time as we spend hours in the office and working hard for a university, there’s no question that’s part of it,” head coach Will Muschamp said.
“Joker is a professional. He’ll handle it the right way. Any time you spend a large amount of your life as a player and as an assistant, a coordinator and a head coach [at one school], certainly you’re invested in that university. …
“You do feel a little different going back to a place like that that you spent so much time. People don’t realize the amount of time and effort we put in to what we do, giving our time to young people and dedication to the administration and all the things involved with a university. And then when you’re not there anymore, for whatever reason, it takes a little part away from you. You always leave something where you’ve been before. I’m sure Joker feels the same way.
“He and I talked a little bit about it Sunday night, the amount of time he spent in Lexington and how much he enjoyed it and the situation there. He really has fond memories of his time at Kentucky.”