Strong and Phillips were on the South Carolina coaching staff together. Not only were they almost next-door neighbors, but Phillips said they often talked about him working for Strong when Strong became a head coach.
“This is not how we dreamed it,” said Phillips, who sat on the front row to listen to Strong address the media.
“We talked that when Charlie got a job, I would go with him and join his staff. I never dreamed we would both be head coaches at the same time, but only 80 miles apart.”
Strong said it will be “weird” to see Phillips on the opposite sideline of Papa John’s Stadium when he coaches his first game.
“We’ve had a great relationship. It’s going to be pretty strange. But we’ll just walk out to midfield, shake hands and play,” the Louisville coach said.
Strong said he’s not watched an abundance of Kentucky film this summer because he annually watched UK film when he was at Florida.
“They are an outstanding team. They are good and our biggest rival. That’s enough said,” Strong said.
Phillips said his staff has had a more difficult time figuring out what to expect from Strong and a new staff.
“They have hired a lot of guys from different schools,” Phillips said. “There’s a lot of film we have to watch to get an idea what they might do. That’s why I like it the third game (of the year instead of the opening game).
“But every game is difficult to prepare for. This is an easy one to get your players ready for. The team that can run the ball and take care of the ball and stop the other team from running usually wins.”
Former Louisville linebacker Tom Jackson, now a NFL analyst for ESPN, was one of the former players honored at the event. The Cardinals did not play Kentucky when he was there and Louisville was dominating the Missouri Valley Conference under coach Lee Corso.
“When you say Kentucky-Louisville, it has a certain intensity,” Jackson said. “I think that will only be enhanced by these two young African-American coaches.
“I would have liked to play against Kentucky very much, but they were not interested at the time and I understood it was probably a lose-lose for Kentucky then. It would just not have been beneficial for UK to play Louisville out of the Missouri Valley Conference. We talked about our team versus UK, but also how good we were relative to a lot of teams.
“However, this rivalry now is pretty special, and I just think it’s going to get even better with the two coaches you have now.”