There's no real surprise that the main room was not the most hospitable place for Joker Phillips during SEC Media Days. After all, the Wildcats' historic bowl run had been snapped, the Wildcats were widely viewed as one of the worst teams in the league, and Phillips was seen as a dead coach walking by more than a few beat writers. But if Phillips goes out this year, it will be as the happy warrior.
In fact, Phillips managed to spin almost every negative question into a positive. And the one he couldn't quite get away from -- whether he was facing the dreaded hot seat -- he turned into a joke.
"I'm not sitting down right now, so there's nothing hot," Phillips quipped, before going into the standard answer that he wasn't paying attention to questions about his job security. He compared the conversation to negative recruiting, and the two likely are related in at least some SEC recruiting pitches. And Phillips has no room for negativity.
What about the perception that Kentucky is a basketball school -- certainly that wasn't helped by the hoops team's run through the NCAA field this spring?
I'm selling our basketball program, okay? I would be crazy to try to fight that. I'm trying to sell our basketball team. I think it was unbelievable advertising of our logo. Every time our basketball program went to the next round, the next round, playing in the Final Four, how many times did these kids see the interlocking UK brand out there?
Even the disappointing 2011 season had a happy ending, with Kentucky defeating Tennessee -- the one team in the Eastern division perhaps as hapless as the Wildcats, but one that also had injury problems as an excuse. In any case, that was almost as good as a bowl game in Phillips' book.
One of our gals last year was to win our last game and we were able to reach that.
Pay no attention to the fact that last game was for nothing more than bragging rights about who would be the next-to-worst team in the SEC East. It was the last game, and Kentucky won it, so it counts.
Kentucky players know, of course -- as Phillips probably does when he's not busy selling the basketball program to reporters and recruits -- that 2011 was at least a speed bump for the program. "It wasn't fun being home that long on Christmas," conceded Matt Smith, an offensive lineman who made the trek to Hoover.
If Phillips can make sure that the holiday break is a little bit shorter for Kentucky players this year, then he won't have to worry about spinning a list of negatives into a positive at the Wynfrey next year; the positives will come about naturally. Of course, he might not have to worry about spinning things at SEC Media Days in 2013 if things go south this year -- because Phillips might not be in Hoover at all.