STRONG: Joker Phillips an outstanding coach

Louisville coach Charlie Strong has been part of enough college football rivalries that he was not surprised by anything about the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry during his first season with the Cardinals.

"What you would like is for both teams to get better and become an even bigger and better rivalry when we both get better. But it's good for the state now. Any time you have two schools that are battling and have a rivalry, it's good for football in the state," said Strong, who will face %%MATCH_6%% for the second time Sept. 17 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Strong and UK coach Joker Phillips are long-time friends. Both were on the Florida coaching staff of Kentucky and they competed against each other when Strong was defensive coordinator at %%MATCH_7%% and Phillips was coaching receivers and then became the offensive coordinator at Kentucky.

"You always have that relationship. We play one another and then he goes off to play in the Southeastern Conference and I go play in the Big East," Strong said. "We do recruit against each other. There are a lot of players we recruit that they recruit also."

That happened when both Strong and Phillips were at Centre College for the Kentucky High School Football Coaches Association summer clinic. A prospect that had visited %%MATCH_5%% a day earlier prompted Phillips to arrive at the clinic earlier than scheduled so he could be back in Lexington when the recruit arrived at UK.

"Joker is an outstanding person and our relationship goes way back," Strong said. "The good thing about it is to watch the way he has worked himself and how he has grown through his profession to be able to be head coach at his alma mater which is so special for him and a goal he wanted to achieve and did. He is an outstanding person.?Look at how he carries himself and how he works. They don't come any better than Joker Phillips.

"We still talk a lot. All our conversations are not about football because of our friendship and relationship, but we do talk some football at times."

They made their head coaching debuts against each other last year when Kentucky won at Louisville. However, Phillips knows Strong's presence at Louisville will make it more difficult to beat the Cardinals.

"Charlie is an outstanding coach. I knew that for a long time. So did most people in our business," Phillips said. "He's a good friend, but he's really an outstanding coach."

Louisville, Louisville's running backs and special teams coach, says consistency is the one constant about Strong.

"He is very consistent and is a players' coach. He is an assistant coaches' coach. He is a very strong community guy. You have no doubt about what his position is on anything and it doesn't change," Carter said of Strong. "I think his success as a head coach will mirror his success as an assistant coach and his record was as good as there was in the country as an assistant and he will continue to do so."

Strong doesn't mind the constant comparisons to?Phillips since they are both African-American coaches starting their head coaching careers.

"You are always going to be compared to somebody wherever you are. If I was at Florida and he was at %%MATCH_4%%, the same thing would be going on because you have two in-state schools. Wherever you are, the comparisons will be there," Strong said. "If you are being talked about, you must be doing something good.

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