Many times, when teams are facing their former coaches, there is a lot of trash talking and/or hard feelings leading up to the game. If the coach left for another job, players want to show him what he’s missing. If the coach was fired, the fan base would love to know that their school made the right choice by moving on.
None of that will be the case this weekend when the Florida Gators visit the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington. Former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips, who was fired at the end of last season, is now the wide receivers coach for Florida. However, you are not likely to hear a bad word spoken about Phillips this week.
In fact, in his Monday press conference, new Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said Phillips being on the other sideline should not have any impact on the game. Phillips was a standout receiver for the Wildcats from 1981-84 when the program was rebuilding under Jerry Claiborne. Phillips was loved as a player, and later returned to his alma mater to coach. He became the head coach in 2010 after the retirement of Rich Brooks.
However, things did not go as planned for Phillips and the Kentucky program. After a 6-7 season in 2010, Kentucky slipped to 5-7 in 2011 before bottoming out at 2-10 last season. Phillips was fired and replaced by Stoops.
Despite the program regressing under Phillips, there was still very little hatred toward him. Fans simply wanted him fired not because they didn’t like him, but because the team wasn’t performing on the field. Phillips is still considered a member of the Big Blue Nation, although Wildcat fans will be pulling against him on Saturday.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.