Joker Phillips takes coaching job at Florida

It was a lasting image: ousted coach Joker Phillips being carried off the Commonwealth Stadium field on the shoulders of his players.

But it turns out it won’t be the last image of him at the stadium where he both played and coached. He’ll be back, but on the opposing sideline come Sept. 28.

The former UK coach will even be wearing blue, but it will be paired with orange as Phillips was announced Monday as Florida’s new wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.

A day after Kentucky plucked its new coach, Mark Stoops, from Florida State, its old coach was announced on the Gators’ official athletics web site. Phillips, 49, will start working at Florida on Friday.

“We are excited to have Joker join our staff,” Florida Coach Will Muschamp said in the release. “His background as a head coach and the number of years he has coached wide receivers will be a tremendous asset to our coaching staff and players. Joker is obviously very familiar with the Southeastern Conference and has always done a great job in recruiting.”

Phillips, who will still receive a reported $2.5 million buyout from UK as a part of his contract, said in the release that he was “thrilled to become part of the Gator family.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compete and win at the highest level. I believe in Coach Muschamp’s philosophy and what he has done in his short time here at Florida is phenomenal.”

 Phillips, who did not return messages on Monday, has had success as a wide receivers coach, coaching the position at UK on two separate occasions as well as at Cincinnati, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina.

At Kentucky, the former wide receiver coached some of the Cats’ biggest names in Keenan Burton, Stevie Johnson, Dicky Lyons and Derek Abney.

While at South Carolina in 2002, Phillips coached Troy Williamson, who went on to become the No. 7 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. At schools like Minnesota and Notre Dame, he also coached several wide outs that went on to play in the NFL.

After he was fired from Kentucky after going 13-24 in three seasons as head coach, Phillips indicated that he would take some time to explore his options.

“I think it’s healthier to let the jets cool off, and that’s what we’ll do,” he said three days after his dismissal. “We’ll take some time, relax, try not to jump into anything too quick.”

That relaxation period lasted one day short of a month.

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at jsmith3@herald-leader.com.
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