Emotional Phillips takes over Wildcats

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LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Joker Phillips once invited fans critical of his play calling to join him in the office at 5 a.m. the next day to talk it over.

On Wednesday, after the former offensive coordinator was introduced as head coach of his Kentucky alma mater, Phillips raised the stakes for any would-be second guessers.

"Probably going to be 4 o'clock now," he quipped.

It was a moment of levity in a news conference that also included some heavy emotion -- much of it directed at Phillips' predecessor and mentor Rich Brooks. The former Wildcats coached announced at the same Commonwealth Stadium meeting room two days earlier that he was stepping down after seven years on the job.

Phillips, who was named as the head coach in waiting two years ago, choked up as he spoke of the Brooks -- who hired him in 2003 to lead the wide receivers and promoted him to other roles including coordinator and head coach of the offense.

"He has had a huge effect on me as a person and as a coach, and as I take the reins from him, I feel confident knowing that he has prepared me well," Phillips said. "I get the sense that people understand what Rich has done here, but I predict the appreciation for Rich will grow even greater as time goes by."

The hiring was also historically notable because Phillips becomes Kentucky's first black head football coach and the second in the Southeastern Conference. First-year black head coaches now lead all three of the state's Football Bowl Subdivision programs, with the offseason hirings of Charlie Strong by Louisville and Willie Taggart by Western Kentucky.


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