When Brooks came to Kentucky seven years ago, Steve Brown came as his secondary coach and three years ago he was promoted to defensive coordinator and has improved the Cats from 118th in the nation in total defense to 59th this year.
Brown was visibly shaken here Sunday night as he tried to talk about Brooks after the Kentucky coach announced he was "80 percent sure" he was going to retire following UK's 21-13 loss to Clemson in the Music City Bowl.
"Obviously, I love him with all my heart. He has been like a father to me with his guidance and leadership," said Brown. "I hope he does whatever is best for him and his family.
"I support him in anything he decides to do. If he decides to leave, he has put this program in great shape with a great foundation."
Brooks will spend this week talking to family and friends away from football before he decides on his future. However, if he leaves, Brown still likes the direction the Wildcats will have. "I think Joker Phillips will take the baton and do a great job of leading us," Brown said.
Phillips was named UK's coach in waiting last year, but that didn't help Brown sense that the end was near for Brooks. "I think he did such a great job of making us stay focused on the job at hand as opposed to what he was doing," Brown said. "I am disappointed as heck not only for him, but for the seniors that we lost this game. "But for what he has done for this program, you can't put it into words. He has done something no other man that has coached here has done by going to four straight bowl games. Whatever he decides to do, I am going to love him regardless. We will see what happens." While some coaches might have wanted to announce their pending retirement to inspire the team, Brown says that would not have been Brooks' style. That's why he didn't tell the team — or coaching staff — about his plans until the game ended. "The thing about him is that he is a guy who wants to make sure everything is focused on the players and not on him," Brown said. "That is the type of man he is and has always been. "For him to do what he is doing, I am sure it has been on his mind, but he's like a great poker player and he hasn't shown it to us. He wouldn't let his future take away from our game preparation because he always wants what is best for these kids and that didn't change if this turns out to be his last game."