LEXINGTON — Once he was the head coach with a young assistant named Joker Phillips working for him. Now Rick Minter is the co-defensive coordinator working under Phillips — and that’s just fine with him.
“It is a role reversal. Much like they say when you are young, your parents take care of you and when you are old you take care of your parents, too. Hopefully I am not that old and he doesn’t have to take care of me that much,” joked Minter. “The other side of all that is it is not an overly challenging role to me because I have been there, done that (as a head coach). The good of this is you see a guy who respected you enough as his mentor, leader to want you on his staff to bring what he can bring defensively and to himself as a consultant type.
“Not necessarily buddy-buddy, but get back to that mentor relationship. Then you are dealing with a guy who has no agenda. I am here to serve Joker Phillips and the University of Kentucky and make our defense the best it can be and win as many games as we can win. It's amazing what we can accomplish working together.”
Minter says he once was a coordinator wanting a head coaching job like the majority of Division I offensive and defensive coordinators likely do now. But he was the head coach at Cincinnati after being a coordinator and has been an assistant coach since leaving Cincinnati. Now he’s perfectly content to work under Phillips.
“When you are a coordinator on your way up, no matter what people say you always have your eyes on a prize. You always have your eyes on what can I do to look good, get the next job and become a head coach,” Minter said. “I've done all that, so my job is to help him become SEC Coach of the Year.
“That's what he did when I hired him. He wanted to serve me. It's not his job to please me. It is my job to please him and I have no trouble doing that. I am excited about the opportunity because you really respect people who are not afraid or intimidated by my track record or resume and want that on my staff and will embrace that. I tell him I am here for you. If you want to hear something I will tell you. If you don't want to hear it, I am not going to tell you because it is not my job to.”
Obviously, Minter is a Phillips fan and is convinced he’s the right coach for Kentucky.
“I think he is a great face of our program. He is a born and raised Kentucky Wildcat. He is a good man for this job at this particular junction in UK's timeline and it is our job as coaches and players to see that he keeps doing that,” Minter said.
Phillips was at Cincinnati for the 1997-98 seasons and spent one season coaching offense and one coaching defense while Minter was head coach.
“The guy has a wealth of knowledge. He's been a mentor to me for a long time,” Phillips said. “The thing that we wanted to achieve on defense was be more attacking, be more aggressive. If you look across this league, what's winning is teams that are playing great defense. For us to take this thing to the next level, that's being in the race as long as we possibly can, we have to play great defense.
“We want to create minus-yard plays, we want to create turnovers to have success in this league. I think it will be very beneficial for us as a football team that Rick Minter came in for the bowl prep and got those 15, 16 practices.”
Phillips says his relationship with Minter has always been “great” and he does not anticipate that changing.
“In all the moves that I've made, I definitely spoke to him when I left Cincinnati to go to Minnesota. When I left Minnesota to go to Notre Dame, the guy I talked to, one of the guys I talked to, was Rick Minter. When I left Notre Dame, which wasn't by choice, I had a couple other options, and Rick's advice was to go to South Carolina. When I had a chance to come back to Kentucky, Rick's advice was, ‘Hey, you need to go, it's a great career move for you,’” Phillips said.
“So I've always talked with Rick. Sometimes we've talked about football. A lot of times it's about football and schemes that I might see on defense that he's familiar with. He gives me some insight in how to attack those.”