Ex-Texas Tech players: Gillispie broke NCAA practice-length rules

by | College Basketball Insider
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One player says Billy Gillispie forced injured players to stay in the training room all day. (Getty Images)  
One player says Billy Gillispie forced injured players to stay in the training room all day. (Getty Images)  

Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie, who has come under fire for his treatment of players, also had broken NCAA rules with marathon practices, several of his former players told CBSSports.com.

Kevin Wagner and Jaron Nash both told CBSSports.com on Friday that Gillispie often practiced in excess of four hours -- which is against NCAA rules -- and once went nearly eight hours on a Saturday early last November. The NCAA permits coaches to practice for no more than four hours per day and 20 per week.

"We practiced a lot more than 20 hours a week," Wagner said.

Gillispie and Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt did not immediately respond to calls from CBSSports.com. A source close to Gillispie told CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish early Friday that "this is very, very serious" when asked whether Gillispie's job is in danger.

"We practiced two hours, then he told us to leave and go shave because he didn't like the way we looked," said Wagner, who is now at McClellan Junior College. "Then we came back, practiced two more hours before he told us to get a haircut. Then we came back and did about four more before he kicked us out."

Another ex-player, who did not wish to be identified, estimated the entire November practice lasted a total of 10 hours.

"We used to go more than four hours all the time," added Nash, who transferred to North Dakota after last season. "I remember that day when we went almost all day. We didn't leave until 9 p.m. or so. It was pretty bad. A lot of guys were really hurt after it. One guy had a stress fracture in both legs."

Texas Tech issued this statement about its basketball program: "We are aware and are looking into concerns within the leadership of our men’s basketball program. Student-athlete well-being is our top priority and a matter we take extremely seriously at Texas Tech. Texas Tech is devoting its full resources to look into this matter."

Gillispie also was hospitalized, and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that the coach was in satisfactory condition. Multiple coaches told CBSSports.com that they did not see Gillispie throughout the entire July recruiting period, a rarity for a coach known for his tireless work ethic.

Former players maintain it's more than just about an excess of practice.

"If you were hurt, he told you that you had to stay in the training room all day -- from 6 or 7 in the morning until 10 at night," Wagner said. "Stay in there and get treatment over and over and over. We couldn't leave. My mom had to come and bring me food."

Both players also said that it was commonplace for Gillispie to hold two hour, full-speed practices only hours prior to games.

"Guys were worn out and sleeping by the time the games started," said Nash, who also said that Gillispie had nothing to do with his decision to transfer.

Wagner added, "Basketball wasn't fun anymore. It got to a point where I didn't like playing."

Nash said he almost didn't go to Texas Tech after Gillispie pulled a job offer to his former junior college assistant coach, ex-Indiana player Tom Coverdale. When reached, Coverdale confirmed that Gillispie initially offered him a full-time coaching position, but only days before his expected arrival on campus switched the offer to that of an assistant strength coach which paid about half the salary. Coverdale, who now works at Shepherd Insurance in Indiana, already had resigned his position at Tyler Junior College.

"After he changed his position, I wasn't planning on coming," Nash said. "But then Coach G [Gillispie] kept calling and apologizing, so I finally decided to go."

Coverdale said, "It's really unfortunate that we have guys like that there [who] do absolutely anything to get ahead."

Nash said Gillispie was not the reason he transferred, saying his father became ill. "Coach Gillispie had nothing to do with me transferring," Nash said. "I left mainly because my father was sick."

According to sources, former assistant Chris Beard -- who had worked for both Bob and Pat Knight in Lubbock -- resigned shortly after Gillispie took over, in part due to the way the Coverdale situation went down. He was just one of many people -- secretaries, trainers, video coordinators, graduate assistants and academic advisors -- who left Texas Tech early in Gillispie's tenure.

Gillispie went only 8-23 last season, his first since being hired with a five-year deal by Hocutt. He spent two seasons as the head coach at Kentucky and was also at Texas A&M and UTEP. Six players transferred off last season's Texas Tech team: Wagner, Nash, Cameron Forte (Howard Junior College), DeShon Minnis (Rhode Island), Javarez Wills (Ohio) and Terran Petteway (Nebraska).

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