By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The only thing harder to believe than the fact that Billy Gillispie coached at UK, is that he coached at Texas Tech. This from the same school that had just booted football coach Mike Leach for allegedly mistreating players.
Gillispie is currently running on a two-year cycle. He spent two years at Kentucky before being shoved out the door. He sat out of coaching for two years before being courted by Texas Tech. What did Gillispie do in those two years that made the Red Raiders say, “Hey, Gillispie could turn our program around.”
The current allegations against Billy G include practicing hours in excess of NCAA rules, exposing the players to injury, and not being liked by anyone.
Only five years ago Billy Clyde was the fastest rising coach in the college game. Now it looks like the free fall will come to sudden stop. He has leaped off the ledge and will soon hit the pavement.
Gillispie was named SEC coach of the year his first season at UK. He failed to make the NCAA tournament his second year and then failed to make it to a third year. UK had tabbed Gillispie the successor to Tubby Smith after he led Texas A & M to three-straight 20-win seasons. He also led a turnaround at UTEP that saw the Miners equal an NCAA record for most improved team.
Maybe we should have known there was an issue when he alerted his players at Texas A & M by text that he was on his way to Kentucky. Or when he received a commitment from eighth grader Michael Avery. Or even the fact he did not sign a contract at Kentucky, only a letter of understanding.
The only thing that really raised a red flag for UK fans were the losses, 84-68 to Gardner-Webb and 111-103 to VMI. That’s a lot different than the John Calipari era.
Reportedly Texas Tech has seen 15 players and as many as 30 employees of the basketball program leave during Gillispie’s tenure. They are not saying he is done at Texas Tech, but he is done.
As this is being written, Gillispie lays in a hospital bed with heart attack symptoms and his career future open to public debate. If he loses this job as expected, there will be no more chances for Billy G.
It is hard to imagine a coach that is a worse fit for UK than Gillispie was or that there is a better fit than Calipari. The question is what can we do now with the football team if this is Joker Phillips last year?
Most of us would take Hal Mumme back at this point. What is the next best thing? Mike Leach might be available.