So who should Brooks hire? Easy. It has to be Boyle County coach Chuck Smith.
So many reasons
There are so many reasons Smith would seem to be the perfect choice.
First, he's a former linebacker at Kentucky and still takes great pride in his alma mater. He bleeds blue, just like Phillips.
Second, Kentucky needs a linebacker coach. Smith not only played the position in college, but he's consistently had a terrific defense at Boyle.
Third, he knows how to develop talent. Former Boyle offensive lineman Travis Laffew has already made two All-American teams this year for his play at Louisville. His older brother, Bobby Leffew, is a starting defensive lineman for the Cardinals. He has two players at Kentucky - placekicker Taylor Begley and wide receiver turned tight end Jacob Tamme - and another former player, receiver Neal Brown, played two years at Kentucky before transferring to Massachusetts. Another player, guard Brodie Overstreet, was starting at Wake Forest before an eye injury sidelined him. Another former player, Jeff Duggins, was Kentucky's Mr. Football in 2001. Smith's son, Brandon, just completed a successful career and has verbally committed to Western Kentucky, a Division I-AA power.
Fourth, he knows how to win. His teams won five straight state championships from 1999-2003, a state record. His teams have played in six straight title games, another state record. The Rebels are 85-5 the last six years.
Fifth, he's used to working long hours. I know of no high school coach that puts in more hours and adjusting to the college work routine would not be that difficult.
If that's not enough to put Smith at the top of Brooks' list, then Kentucky's goal to be the premier in-state program should also work to the Boyle coach's advantage.
In-state loyalty is important
How can Kentucky ask the state's best players to take pride in playing for Kentucky and stay home to play college football and then turn its back on one of the state's best prep coaches when a high school coach is added to the staff?
There are other qualified high school coaches in Kentucky. Lexington Catholic coach Bob Sphire has been interviewed and he has the added experience of guiding the Lexington Horsemen to an indoor league national title last year. Elizabethtown's Bret Burnett, one of the state's rising coaches, has been mentioned.
Then there is Danville's Sam Harp. He would be right at the top of my list with Smith if it did not look like his son, Chase, a former UK player, could be in line to be a graduate assistant on Brooks' staff next year after spending this season at Syracuse. Give Harp, who has won seven state championships, a choice of moving to UK or having his son land a job, I know he'll take having his son on the Kentucky staff.
That leaves Smith as the coach Brooks should bring on board if he turns to the high school ranks for help.
Sure, it would be a blow to Boyle's program. But what Boyle fan could complain if Smith had a chance to advance his career? He's done too much for the Rebels for anyone to ever wish him anything but the best when he does leave.
Brooks will be taking a small risk by hiring a high school coach. The biggest unknown will be in recruiting. However, as former Mercer County coach Tony Franklin proved when he left to join Hal Mumme's staff at UK, that's not an insurmountable hurdle as Franklin became Mumme's best recruiter.
Kentucky could not find a more qualified high school coach than Smith and if Brooks does turn to the high school ranks for help, there's no way to take any prep coach over Smith.