Phillips excited about being a Wildcat

HOOVER, Ala. - A young confident college head coach making his first SEC Media Day appearance Wednesday afternoon, it was obvious that Joker Phillips is the right man for the job at the University of Kentucky. Go "Inside" to see why.

It's 2010, not 2009, so I'm not talking about Lane Kiffin, and everyone is happy about that, including SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.

"I welcome Derek Dooley to the SEC, I really welcome him here," Slive said. "Derek is a man that understands the SEC, grew up in it, we are glad he is here."

Dooley would also qualify as a young college head coach debuting at SEC Media Days - as he will Friday morning - but in this case I'm talking about Kentucky's new head coach, Joe "Joker" Phillips.

Phillips took the podium with a bounce of excitement in his step, and you could tell by the sound of his voice that he was happy to be representing the school he attended and played for as the new Wildcat head man.

"I'm living a dream and carrying it out," Phillips told a large group of SEC media members. "I loved playing for the University of Kentucky. I know what it means to play in this conference. I'm very proud to be the head coach at the University of Kentucky."

Unlike Kiffin in his inaugural SEC press conference a year ago, you could tell that Phillips is at home, and he has found his dream job and isn't looking for that next best thing.

Phillips also spoke of how he assembled a coaching staff that now has five coaches with over 35 years of SEC experience.

"The biggest difference from the job I had to the job I have now is that I now have the responsibility of making those hardcore decisions that affect this team," Phillips said. "Part of those hard decisions were hiring my coaching staff."

Phillips explained he looked for three things while putting together his first staff as a head coach.

"First, I asked if that coach could recruit, that's very important to me. I want guys who can recruit at the highest level," Phillips said. "We currently have seven of assistant coaches who have been recruiting coordinators. Does that make them a great recruiter? No, but it does make them organized recruiters."

It appears to be already working for the Wildcats. Kentucky currently has 14 commitments compared to just two this time last year.

"The second question I asked was can this coach teach," Phillips said. "Once we get the prospect on our campus we much be great teachers of the game. We have to develop and coach our talent from day one to year four or five. Teaching our players is an ongoing process. You've got to coach them up and you have to develop talent."

Phillips, who has been a player and an assistant coach at Kentucky, also realizes the importance of something else.

"My third question is can this coach connect and relate to our players," Phillips said. "That is so important in this day and age."

Phillips also wanted a coaching staff that is full of energy and that will show the players the same type of love and passion for the Blue and White that he did during his career at Kentucky.

"They have to have some juice," Phillips said. "They need the high energy it's going to take to do the job here at Kentucky. They have to have the love and passion for the program, that's very important."

It's obvious that Phillips is exactly where he wants to be.

Not once in the media conference was the fact brought up that he is the first African-American coach at the University of Kentucky football program.

He makes it a non-issue, and he is home and where he belongs. He is truly Blue and White.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories