NC State Football’s newest staff member, wide receivers coach Joker Phillips, met with the media Feb. 2 for an introductory press conference. Phillips spoke about what brought him to Raleigh, the culture at NC State and his connection to current personnel.
The coaching profession is a small world, so when the NC State wide receivers coaching job opened up, running backs coach Kurt Roper called Phillips. Phillips had worked with Roper three times previously and also had a short stint with offensive coordinator Tim Beck while Phillips was an analyst at Ohio State.
Less than a week after Roper contacted Phillips, he was in Raleigh for an interview. The next day, Phillips accepted head coach Dave Doeren’s job offer.
“It was a good quick thing for me,” Phillips said. “I personally think that was the thing that had to happen for me. Again, I’m with two very good friends of mine, Tim Beck and Kurt Roper, and just hearing from them what’s going on here, I think it was important to me.
Doeren has emphasized having a healthy team culture with his signings in 2020, and it has paid off both on and off the pitch. According to Phillips, when speaking with Beck and Roper about the squad, they said the roster was full of top players with good talent.
NC State also rebranded itself on offense via a desire to give coaches a fresh start. Beck, for example, came to Raleigh after spending five years under offensive-minded head coaches at Ohio State and Texas. Phillips does the same after two years under Mike Locksley. Doeren is a defensive guy, and his disposition and coaching style prompted Phillips to move to Raleigh.
“He’s just being himself, and that’s what you want in a head coach,” Phillips said. “Someone who doesn’t try to be Knute Rockne. Coach Doeren is himself; he allows his coaches to coach – he is not a micromanager. That’s what attracted me. He trusts the coaches he brings into the building. It’s a really useful thing for an incoming coach.
During his career, Phillips has served at all levels of coaching, from his job as a post coach to offensive coordinator, then head coach, at Kentucky. His hiring continues a pattern that Doeren began by bringing in Ted Roof and Ruffin McNeil: having former head coaches on staff. Doeren said being able to use a former head coach as a sounding board can be very helpful, and it’s clear he appreciates getting different perspectives from his coaches.
“Coach Doeren, he said, ‘Hey, if you see something, don’t be afraid to speak up,'” Phillips said. “It’s the same philosophy that trainer Beck has too. It’s the same philosophy that I had in those chairs too. Having that freedom really helps, especially when you hear it from the horse’s mouth.
Former receivers coach George McDonald left the cupboards overflowing for the arrival of Phillips. NC State fires all three starting receivers and has several top young players, as well as underdog speedsters who offer depth.
Phillips and McDonald met as the former was returning from his interview and the latter was heading to Illinois, and Phillips said ‘I could hear and feel the excitement in his voice’ as they talked about the alumni McDonald’s players.
It will take time for Phillips to get to know his players, but the 30-year-old veteran knows what he wants from his group. Phillips said his bedroom culture will revolve around competition as he looks to continue the tradition NC State has built at wide receiver.
“Children are different [at receiver]; some people call it cocky, kids now call it swag, I call it confidence,” Phillips said. “I want guys – we call it a CATCH. We want confident guys, guys who are confident. You want guys who are responsible, guys who are tough, guys who can communicate and guys who are healthy.Mentally, physically and emotionally healthy… These are the things that have allowed me to be successful in this industry coaching wide receivers.