"Rich's desire all along was to pass this to someone on his staff. Joker is a guy who has poured his heart and soul into this program for over two decades. He was the right choice," Barnhart said.
"I love the continuity of our staff. Rich has done a great job of keeping our staff close. If it is not broke, quit trying to fix it. We have a good group of coaches and hope we can keep them together for a long period of time."
Brooks said months ago that it was important for him to keep continuity on his staff even though his goal remains to be UK's longest tenured coach - a goal that will require him to coach five more years. However, he still takes pride that he left Oregon's program with a stable foundation that has allowed it flourish even more nationally.
The UK coach also knew rival coaches were using his age - 66 - against him in recruiting.
Counter the age factor
"That was one of my driving forces into trying to have this happen. I did not want any insecurity by parents or players that if they come here somebody might come in and change the whole program if I stepped down," Brooks said. "Coaches insinuate, 'Why go to Kentucky? He is old and will not be there long.' I was always either going to be fired or retired. This hopefully will clear up any continuing issues.
"Joker is clearly the right choice to lead the program forward. Whenever the time comes for me to go fishing or whatever, he will take it even to a different level much like Oregon did when I left. I still think I have a little energy left. But I don't want to have something happen to me that will jeopardize the future of the program."
Phillips says no one should worry that Brooks is going to walk away any day soon.
"People talk about his age and being out of it, but the thing I saw with him is that a young guy would have deviated his plan when he was building this program," Phillips said. "There were times some of our staff thought we should change the plan. But the guy knows how to build and run a program. He has done it the right way and it has not always been done the right way here."
Phillips remembered Brooks from Falcons days
Phillips recalled that he was in his hometown of Franklin watching his niece play high school basketball when word surfaced that Brooks was being hired. While many fans wondered who Brooks was, Phillips knew because he had coached under him when Brooks was defensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons.
"I leaned over to my wife and told here it was just a matter of time before place explodes. I have watched Rich plow ahead and change all doubters who said we couldn't do it here," Phillips said. "I have watched him lead the team and not only teach the team, but teach the coaching staff and supporters how to swim upstream and ignore the current. He stuck to the plan, and it worked."
Brooks won't change the plan now, either, that UK has had consecutive eight-win seasons and won back-to-back Music City Bowls.
"In about three weeks, we will be announcing a signing class that will continue to bring upgrades in talent, and hopefully the same class off the field that players have had in the last couple of years," Brooks said.
"Why can't we be up in the discussion every year (for Southeastern Conference titles and bowl bids) instead of being picked at the bottom of the league. I am sure we will be picked there next year because we lose good players. Believe me, we are not going to disappear next year. This football team is a good football team and we will give people fits next year. Believe me."