By LARRY VAUGHT
On my way to Atlanta for the Kentucky-Duke game, I took time to stop in Chattanooga to see Signal Mountain quarterback Reese Phillips, a UK commit. I spent about 45 minutes with him and coach Bill Price and even watched video of his final game, a 42-41 overtime loss where his team trailed 28-0 before rallying to force overtime behind Phillips’ play.
Question: What was your reaction to coach Joker Phillips being fired?
Phillips: “It was disappointing because you get attached to guys and people who give you the opportunity to play in such a high conference, but at the end of the day it is the way the SEC is. If you are not winning, stuff like this happens. It was disappointing, but I understood.”
Question: Have you been in contact with anyone at UK since Phillips was fired?
Phillips: “I talked to (offensive coordinator) coach (Randy) Sanders the day of (the firing), probably two hours after I learned what happened to Joker. He told me he was disappointed and didn’t really know about his situation. He pretty much just told me how it was. He kind of expected it. I think everyone did, especially after Vanderbilt (a 40-0 loss). A loss like that is hard.
“People kept asking me did I not expect it to happen. And I did. It was not like I didn’t expect it, but it is kind of like a surreal thing. You don’t expect yourself to get attached to somebody and then they get fired. Then it is like, ‘Man, what am I going to do now?’ But I am not worried about it. It is still a good situation.”
Question: So is it just waiting to see who the new coach is knowing you still have a chance to play quarterback in the SEC?
Phillips: “You can’t control it. I can’t go out and hire somebody. Me and (Signal Mountain) coach (Bill) Price have talked a lot about it. The really good thing is people say if they don’t bring in a system that will fit me, it wouldn’t fit the other quarterbacks because I am the exact same as the other quarterbacks, which is a good thing. In the long run, I think it will benefit me the best, so I am not worried about it.”
Question: What qualities would you like to see in the next coach?
Phillips: “Like Joker. I loved the way he was. Maybe he was not the best coach, but he was a great person. He made you feel like family right away and truly the way he made me feel and the reason I committed early. It is in the SEC and Joker was a good guy and coach Sanders was always someone I loved. Just qualities of a family man and respects his players and enjoys being around them.”
Question: What do you think of the speculation that maybe Bobby Petrino could be UK’s next coach?
Phillips: “I don’t know. I have never met him. I would have to talk to him and see what he is like. I have heard stuff about him, but you can’t go off stuff people say about other people. I would have to learn about him and get to know him. That’s the only way to really dissect somebody.”
Question: Would his offense be good for you and UK’s returning quarterbacks?
Phillips: “He has done some good things, so that is positive. He would definitely bring a system I would look forward to.”
Question: At your age, do you mainly judge a coach on what he can do for you and your team and not things that have happened in the past or not?
Phillips: “It would come down to winning obviously. That is the reason you keep playing is to win. Everyone wants to win. The way he treats me and how he is going to do for my future is important. If he can do good things for me and also put the team in a good place because Kentucky deserves it and a winning team and winning environment.”
Question: Could an offensive-minded coach like Sonny Dykes of Louisiana Tech do the same thing?
Phillips: “Honestly, I have heard his name but don’t much about him other than statistics people throw at me.”
Question: Are you not really that consumed with all the coaching speculation?
Phillips: “Not at all. I am just enjoying my last couple of months of high school. I trust everything will be fine.”