Wilks optimistic for the rest of the season as interim Panthers HC

CHARLOTTE — Carolina Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks stepped up to the podium with aplomb Tuesday, declaring that this season isn’t over.

Wilks, who is taking over a 1-4 Panthers team after former head coach Matt Rhule was fired Monday, says he feels confident in his players, and he feels that they’re going to turn the corner after several years of losing seasons.

“We’ve played well enough to win games,” Wilks said Tuesday. “We have to find a way to finish, and that starts with me.”

In the last 24 hours, the Charlotte local was called up to lead a team that is currently sitting last in the NFC South. But the team isn’t down for the count yet; with more than half of the schedule remaining, Wilks has support from all across the city, including his alma maters: West Charlotte High School and Appalachian State University.

“I’m excited to have this opportunity,” Wilks said. “To do it right here at home is great, but it’s bigger than me.”

Steven Aycock, a former head coach at Johnson C. Smith University, said Wilks always envisioned a moment just like this.

VIDEO: Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks confident about turning season around

“We just talked about the vision where we wanted to be and who we wanted to be as young coaches,” Aycock said, “And he would always say looking down at Bank of America Stadium, ‘You know what, I’m going to be there.’”

Now he’s here as a coach with more than 25 years of experience, and he’s tasked with winning now.

With the pressure of an NFL gig, Channel 9 asked Wilks what motivated him to say yes to the interim head coach position.

“I want to be a part of helping to turn this thing around,” Wilks said. “My history with this organization before is when we won three straight NFC South championships.”

“So I know what it takes.”