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Friday, November 9, 2012

Coaching Carousel: Joker Phillips

Reason left: Fired (November 4)
Record: 12-22
SRS: -0.77
SRS previous 3 years: 6.34
(SRS: Sports Reference's Simple Rating System)

It's easy to make the basketball school references here, but that underscores just how disappointing Joker Phillips has been at Kentucky.  Rich Brooks did a wonderful job in Lexington, turning Kentucky into a viable SEC team.  They weren't an SEC contender, but they weren't... you know... Kentucky.  Now they're Kentucky again.  And Kentucky doesn't like being Kentucky.

Brooks took the team to a bowl in each of his final 4 seasons, and Phillips continued this in his rookie year.  It's the longest bowl streak in school history.  Since that first year, the Wildcats have progressively gotten worse.  The most surprising thing was how they got worse - on offense.  Phillips was offensive coordinator for Brooks' potent offenses when the team was at its best.  When Phillips took the reins, it was natural to worry over some regression, but that regression was expected to happen on the defensive side.  Phillips has been unable to find a QB to run the offense.  This year's committee of Patrick Towles, Morgan Newton, and  Jalen Whitlow have been particularly bad, combining for -56.4 NEPA.  It's easily one of the least productive passing games in the country this year.  And finally, you can't really give Phillips a pass for going up against more talented defenses - he was facing more talented defenses when his offense was considered powerful and dangerous.  Now the only danger the offense poses is to itself.  No, seriously:

Still, 34 games does seem like a bit of a quick trigger when you consider that:
1. Phillips was hand-picked for the job by his predecessor, arguably the best coach in UK history.
2. He's a UK alum unlikely to bolt for a better job.
3. He did reach a bowl in 33% of his seasons, which is pretty good for UK.

But those 3 things weren't enough to overcome the obvious: the team just keeps getting worse and worse.  This move says that Kentucky wants to win, and pretty badly.  Just how desperate are they?  I ask because a notable former SEC coach is apparently interested... 
Brent Blackwell compiles the EPA rankings for  Follow Brent on Twitter by mashing the pretty button below.

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