Don't you find it extremely odd that Kentucky's and Louisville's roundball coaches are often compared as being from the same mold? Would you find it overwhelmingly odd that the two school's football coaches are often mistaken for the other when seen away from football? And yes, for this to be the case in both basketball and football at the same time, is out-of-this-world odd?
Joker and Charlie are often mistaken for each other and the most amusing thing about that, it often happens in Louisville. The two look amazingly similar and even with us being tagged as a basketball school more often than not, I think most 'Cat fans would know Joker is not Charlie. Their coaching careers have mirrored the other's often and their crossed paths allowed them to become friends. On September 2nd their paths will cross again and bring the two together on the field as foes, if only for a day.
Joseph "Joker" Phillips was born in Kentucky on May 23, 1963 and Charlie R. Strong was born in Arkansas on August 2, 1960. After high school Joker Phillips came to play for the Kentucky Wildcats during 1981-84. After college he moved to the next level and played one season for the Washington Redskins, one year for the Toronto Argonauts, and then another season for the Washington Redskins. Charlie Strong played college football and ran track for Central Arkansas during 1980-83. After college, in 1983, he was hired as a graduate assistant for the Florida Gators for one season.
Joker and Charlie both were hired at Notre Dame, but not at the same time. Joker was at Notre Dame in 2001 and Charlie was there from 1995-1998, after another couple of separate single seasons at Florida. (Someone in Gainesville must have really liked him a lot.) Joker was at Kentucky from 1988-1996 before heading north to Cincinnati for 1997 and 1998. They met while working for Lou Holtz in South Carolina and they became friends.
Charlie Strong was hired by South Carolina to coach the defense in 1999 until 2002. Joker was also at South Carolina as a receivers coach for one season during 2002. The two became fast friends getting up each day at 5:30 AM to run together. They found they really enjoyed competing against each other during their morning rituals and have stayed friends since their 'training days'. After that year, Charlie (once again) went back to the Florida coaching staff through 2009, and Joker came back to Kentucky. In 2010 Charlie accepted an offer to come to Kentucky, 80 miles west of Lexington, to be the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. That same year, Joker took over as head coach for our Kentucky Wildcats and the two friends found themselves close enough to play golf together again with both being in the same state. Both of them were very happy for the other because they had both shared the dream to be named head coach of a football program, because even though they like competing against each other, the two were very close outside of football
rolls around finally gets here both men will begin their third season as a head coach. Joker's coaching record is 11-14 and Charlie's is 14-12. The two friends will set aside their bond and compete for a year's worth of bragging rights in the state. Unless you are a fan of a team from somewhere outside the state of Kentucky, this is a really big deal. This year Joker and Charlie will face their third game as head coaches against each other in the Battle for the Bluegrass. The series between them is tied at 1-1. Where the Governor's Cup Trophy will live for the next year, I don't know. One thing is for certain, with the annual rivalry between the schools, the coaches history, a nationally televised game, and a mostly home crowd, Papa John's Stadium could be really loud. Or maybe it won't.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!