Joker Phillips shrugs off talk of 'hot seat'

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 29, 2012 

October 27, 2012; Columbia, MO. USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips looks on as his team plays the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Missouri Tigers defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 33-10. Photo by: Jeff Curry

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  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

Joker Phillips stood over the tee, waiting for the ball to be placed upon it.

At his weekly news conference, the Kentucky coach was asked about his job status and he had this story ready to rip: "I was coming over here today, and I got in the car, and my seat was hot," he said with a smile. "And I looked up, and I'd hit the seat warmer."

After the Cats' most recent defeat, 33-10 at Missouri on Saturday, their seventh in a row, talk of the end of the Phillips era at Kentucky grew louder.

But the coach said on Monday that there have been zero conversations about his job status with UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, who previously has indicated that he will discuss it after the season ends.

"It hasn't changed," Phillips said. "We have talked. Again, just, 'Hey, how are you doing? I'm doing good.' Just small talk. Talking like friends do weekly."

Phillips couldn't help but add another wise crack, though, as he fielded media queries.

"I was going to tell you guys last week after I left, Mitch and I talked and we've been talking about an extension," he said, before adding slowly. "No, I'm just kidding."

Kentucky has three games to go before the end of the season, including two at home against Vanderbilt and Samford (Nov. 17), before the season closes at Tennessee on Nov. 24.

At 1-8 and 0-6 in the Southeastern Conference, UK is off to its worst start since 2004 when it started 1-8 and finished 2-9, with its only SEC win coming over Vanderbilt 14-13 late in the season.

Phillips, whose contract runs through Dec. 31, 2014, was asked if his potential lack of job security made it more difficult to recruit.

"Well, I've had to recruit this way most of my career," he said. "We went into homes and recruited. Again, I don't think about the media and how you guys, what you think. What I do is think about what the recruits think. We go in, sell who we are, sell what we do, and we've had success in doing that."

The current group of Kentucky players said they try not to worry about their head coach's future.

"I don't really try to get in his business or anything of that nature," linebacker Alvin "Bud" Dupree said. "I don't really think about it."

They're just focused on trying to get better every week, safety Ashely Lowery added.

"To me, he's a good coach and he disciplines us well and everything," Lowery said. "We've just got to get on the right track."

That's the way Phillips wants it. He said his staff's job status never comes up.

He shook his head when asked if he wanted the players to win for him the rest of the way.

"No. They're 18 to 22 years old," he said. "Those guys need to be able to have fun, go to school, and play ball. That's what they're here for."

He said the only thing he and his players can worry about at this point is improving.

"Obviously, we're not happy with where our season's been," Phillips said. "The way to get it corrected is go back on the practice field and go to work, get some guys healthy and continue to forge ahead."

Injury updates

Linebacker Pancho Thomas dislocated a bone in his wrist and will have surgery on Tuesday to put pins in it. He likely could go against Samford with a cast. Linebacker Jabari Johnson (hamstring) is doubtful.

Players listed as day to day include defensive lineman Donte Rumph, who sprained his right knee versus Missouri. Cornerback Cody Quinn has a hamstring strain. Tight end Tyler Robinson injured his back and didn't make trip to Missouri.

On the opposing team, Vanderbilt's star running back Zac Stacy likely will play against Kentucky. He injured his ankle against Massachusetts last week, but should be fine, Coach James Franklin said.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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