Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart met with the media for a brief period for the first time since the dismissal of Coach Joker Phillips and the start of his search for Phillips’ replacement. Here’s what he had to say:
“We continue to work through the process. The goal is to continue to build up the foundation that Joker has put in place: the young talent that we’ve got, the respect and accountability that he’s gained in the locker room, the way we conduct our business. Those are the things that we want to build upon. We’ve been working at it. We’ll work our way through that process. We won’t short-circuit that. I don’t think there’s any reason to do that. We’ll let you know when we get done.
“It is a good job. People are excited about the opportunity to coach in our league and coach at the University of Kentucky. We’ll continue to look at that. That’s sort of where we are. That’s about the update we have.
DOES HE HAVE A TIMETABLE? “We don’t have a timetable. Like I said, we’ll respect the process and continue to work our way through it. We’ve been working at it since we made the change a couple weeks ago. Players have been great through the whole process. The coaching staff has been wonderful through the process. Joker has been as class as class can be. He has been an amazing, amazing guy, which hasn’t changed at all. He’s just exactly what you would expect. He expected our players to conduct themselves a certain way, and he has been the absolute example of how to do that. I respect him very, very much. On a day when we close our season down, that’s about where I’ll leave it with you today.”
ON POTENTIAL CANDIDATES: “No one has been offered the job. People have been responsive. People have been responsive about talking about the job. It’s much different (than) last time. We were on probation, looking at 19 scholarships down. There wasn’t a lot of folks that were thinking it was a really great opportunity. Coach Brooks came in here and took it by the horns, fought through some very difficult times. The opportunity that we have ahead of us — as you’ve seen today, we put over 400 yards of total offense on the board. We’ve got some young guys still trying to figure out what to do and how to get it in the end zone and finish those pieces. That will come. The person that walks in will have an opportunity to inherit some of that young talent. There’s obviously some things we’ve got to get better, and we all know that. That’s why we’re in this position, but we do have some young players in this locker room that do care about this program and have a chance to move it forward. We’ll just continue to work through it. I appreciate you very much.”
IS ANYONE HELPING WITH SEARCH? We’re working our way through the process. That’s for me to know. At the end of the deal, we’ll work our way through all that. I appreciate that. I’ve got a good staff, and we’ve got good folks.
ARE THERE ANY QUALITIES YOU’RE LOOKING FOR IN THE NEXT COACH? “I’m not going to get into specifics really. We always talk about you’ll know it when you see it, you’ll know it when you feel it. We’ll talk about fit, and we’ll work our way through that. There’s no blueprint for these things. I’ve seen them work a lot of different ways at a lot of different places, at schools that have had a lot more tradition, a lot less tradition, mid majors, big-time places. There’s no blueprint to these things. We’re looking for the right fit, and we’ll continue to work our way through that.”
IN CLOSING: “I appreciate it. Everybody has been patient. Misinformation flies around and I get all that, so we won’t respond to that noise. We’ll just continue working our way as we always have for the last 10 or so years. Appreciate the way you all have respected our team and our coaches, and we’ll hopefully get to you sooner rather than later.”