Tag:Billy Gillispie
Posted on: October 20, 2011 10:43 am

Gillispie says he's sober, has a new view on life

By Matt Norlander

With the release of its coaches poll today, USA Today has opted to pair that noteworthy college hoops news bit with a hearty profile on Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie.

Texas Tech will not be included in the Top 25 of either the coaches or the AP poll, to be clear. Still, Gillispie's certainly a good subject to tackle. He's among the most enigmatic, polarizing, confusing and curious coaches -- at any level -- sports has today. His choice to leave Texas A&M to go to Kentucky was, in my opinion, the worst choice possible for him, the person.

I give Gillispie credit for landing a third major BCS job, though. He can coach. That's never been in doubt, even in Kentucky. During his time in Lexington, it was more of a clash between Gillispie's personality and the culture there. The man never even signed a contract while coaching the Wildcats. That's really bizarre, folks.

Failing to get UK to the NCAA tournament for the first time in almost two decades sealed his fate beyond any person-to-person conflict that existed, though. What gets overlooked: Kentucky also acted way too quickly and didn't think about the guy it was hiring. It needed someone to replace Tubby Smith, and Gillispie wasn't even the hot name of the month -- he was the hot name that day. Complete move based on impulse, not studiousness.

There are plenty of people in college basketball who do not like Gillispie. He is perceived as odd, and many would rather consider him outside the college basketball coaching fraternity. That's not to say he doesn't have friends in the business. He absolutely does. There's a reputation he'll fight daily until his teams win big, his personality adjusts, or something else like that happens.

Gillispie says he's on his way, though. He readily admits that Kentucky was a bad decision. He's willing to talk about things now that he probably wouldn't have been as recently as six months ago. Things like the millions he reportedly lost in the David Salinas saga and his history of alcoholism.
Gillispie talked about the impact of those events and his plans to rebuild Texas Tech and turn the Red Raiders into contenders for a national title. A striking quality about Gillispie is his enthusiasm. At Texas A&M and Kentucky, he could be guarded and defensive with the news media. Initially he declined USA TODAY's interview request, which associate athletics director Blayne Beal attributed to Gillispie's rocky ending at Kentucky, where camera crews followed him in the hours before and after his firing. Yet whether laughing about reruns of his favorite sitcom, Seinfeld, or speaking vibrantly about his job, Gillispie seemed at ease.
I'll break for brevity and levity for a second here. Gillispie digs The Sein? Billy, I've completely misjudged you! Let's talk favorite episodes. Is any one more underrated than "The Bris"? OK, back to Gillispie on his past:
"In certain places, you have 14 requests in a particular day and you can only honor one or two, so 12 people end up saying you don't like to get out and do those kinds of things," he says. "I actually love it. It's a way for people to see the energy we have." ... Gillispie says he no longer drinks. In 1999, while an assistant at Tulsa, he pleaded guilty to an amended charge of reckless driving. In 2003, a judge dismissed a drunken-driving charge, and it was later expunged, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, which cited the El Paso County Clerks Office. Gillispie pleaded guilty to the 2009 charge in Kentucky in a plea deal. Giving up drinking, Gillispie says, "is what's right for me and what's right for people to continue to have confidence in me."
I'll go a little heavier than that and suggest that if Gillispie didn't give up drinking, he'd probably only have a couple of years at Tech before he was out of head-coaching in basketball for life. Texas Tech gives all of its support to Gillispie, as it should, but the man has to prove himself in a number of areas. His drinking problem is chief among that.

Any compassionate human should naturally root for Gillispie's redemption. He's self-aware now, or so it seems. We need as man positive influences in college coaching as possible. Gillispie didn't have the reputation before. He may not even have it now. But he's working toward scrubbing himself into a new image. Plenty once believed he wasn't capable of that kind of change.

Photo: AP
Posted on: August 24, 2011 12:27 pm

Some clarifications on Gillispie, Texas Tech

By Matt Norlander

Yesterday, I wrote an opinion piece on Texas Tech and Billy Gillispie. In frank: I have my doubts about the future of the program under him due to the collateral damage his reputation could have in recruiting. The post was buttressed off a SPORTSbyBROOKS report that Billy Gillispie had been something of a nuisance in Lubbock since arriving there earlier this year. Many people who had spent many years at Tech prior to Gillispie's arrival are no longer working there.

I received a couple of, let's call them concerned, calls regarding my post and some innaccuracies contained within, which were catalyzed by the Brooks post. Multiple sources affiliated or formerly affiliated with Texas Tech called to clarify and rectify three things they state are patently false. This blog and myself are never above reproach, so here are the retractions:
  • Billy Gillispie and former assistant Chris Beard were never physically separated by Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt.
  • They were never separated because Beard and Gillispie were never involved in a physical altercation. Ever.
  • Gillispie was never outright verbally abusive toward Beard, so speculation of that behavior is incorrect. It never happened and never had an impact on Beard choosing to leave Tech's program earlier this summmer.
So there you have it. Beard is still gone and Tech moves on with a new staff and prepares for a new era under Gillispie.
Posted on: August 23, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: August 23, 2011 3:55 pm

Gillispie era at Texas Tech isn't going smoothly

By Matt Norlander

Few major, BCS-level athletic directors would have hired Billy Gillispie to coach their basketball team. He was radioactive, to say the least. In fact, that probably doesn't do it justice.

Honestly, Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt may have been the only major-conference AD willing to take a chance on Gillispie. The former Texas A&M and Kentucky basketball coach is known for his ability to win games but also carries with him a reputation that seems will haunt him forever, much of that stemming from how hard he is to interact with. There are also concerns with his penchant for drinking.

Fortunately for Gillispie, Hocutt went all in on him a few moths ago. Yet, before a game's been played under Gillispie, it turns out he couldn't even make it through an offseason without headaches and turmoil at his new job. There's already erosion within the Texas Tech program, considering Gillsipie can't hang on to assistant coaches, trainers or even secretaries.

He's scaring, bullying and forcing people away from the buildings in Lubbock. People who'd spent the better part of a decade there no longer are because of the new basketball coach in town.

SPORTSbyBROOKS ran with a story today that details some of what Gillispie's put Hocutt through in a few months' time, including the departures of the people referenced above. The post's primary conflict centers around longtime assistant Chris Beard, who left the program in mid-June -- an uncommon time for an assistant to jump ship.

Fighting? Yes, there was fighting. Fighting of the physical variety that came to after Beard couldn't take Gillispie's verbal abuse anymore (a mere 10 weeks' time since he was hired on March 21). Fighting of a variety that apparently boiled to a point where Hocutt had to separate Beard and Gillispie. An athletic director playing peacemaker between two basketball coaches.

Picture that scenario unfolding in your mind, then appropriately ask yourself, What has happened at Texas Tech?

Beard left the program after multiple, heated altercations with the irascible and intractable Gillispie, the final of which was physically broken up by ... Hocutt.

That final conflict was a mediation of sorts after Beard had previously decided to leave the program because of Gillispie’s poor treatment of Tech employees, a former player and concern over Gillispie’s fast-and-loose recruiting tactics.

Remember, Beard was a guy who got along famously with Bob Knight throughout the notorious coach’s tenure and was a close confidante of Pat Knight as his top assistant. Gillispie was also a previous admirer of Beard, having tried to hire Beard at one of his previous coaching stops.

But the throwdown in front of Hocutt was the final straw for Beard, who was cursed by Gillispie on multiple occasions in front of Hocutt before responding to the Tech coach in kind.

In exchange for Beard’s silence about Gillispie’s ill-advised stewardship of the program, Texas Tech has since paid Beard a hefty sum in an exit agreement that included a confidentiality clause. (Beard was not a source for this story, nor did he initiate or have any role whatsoever in its production or publication.)

I can confirm that many around and formerly with the Tech program have been very tight-lipped about what seems to be tenuous-at-best circumstances right now. There's also another person not stated in Brooks' story who joined Gillispie's staff briefly in the spring only to leave shortly thereafter.

Gillispie's burned so many bridges at this point. Not a lot of assistant coaches are willing to work for him because word spreads, obviously. College coaches absolutely love to talk with each other and bury the guys who've tried hard to bury others before. It's part of the fun of the July recruiting trail.

Gillispie did recently replace Beard. After a weeks-long search, Jeff Kidder, who spent the past six years coaching at the junior college level, joined Gillispie's staff on Aug. 3.

Texas Tech is in a tough spot right now. Even if you eliminate all of the tension built up from a human resources standpoint, think about if Gillispie would even be a head coach right now if it was known how much money he'd been bilked out of in Ponzi schemes. No way he gets hired by Hocutt if that's known. We're talking about a coach that never officially signed a contract when he was at Kentucky. Do you think Gillispie would have been hired at Tech in the first place if his ties to David Salinas and Jim Donnan were public prior to April?

So this is what the Red Raiders are faced with: Before the season begins, its coach is already fighting a bad environment within the office, a worse reputation on the recruiting trail and an uphill battle in the whittled-down, weakened Big 12.

Have to think Hocutt wonders daily how he could have avoided this, and how he talked himself into hiring Gillispie in the first place.
Posted on: April 8, 2011 1:26 pm
Edited on: April 10, 2011 5:05 pm

Grading the Big 12 coaching changes

Posted by Eric Angevine

Coaching changes seem to be cyclical in nature. Each season, one of the power conferences goes through a sea change in leadership. Last season, the Big East and ACC cleaned house a bit, and this season it’s the Big… whatever. Twelve doesn’t make sense any more.

The changes in the Texas League (now there’s a moniker that makes sense) will seem even more seismic due to the departure of Colorado and Nebraska for other conferences this summer. Of the ten programs that remain in the former Big 12, thirty percent just swapped one head dude for another.

One aspect of the Big 12 situation that has been a huge positive so far is that each coaching search was wrapped up quickly. For good or ill, these programs know who will be in charge and on the recruiting trail this summer, and returning players can get to know the new guy, which could stop the flow of transfers before it ever starts. Certainty is always better than uncertainty in these cases.

Let’s look at those three programs in transition and assess how they did with the hiring process, using the ever-popular letter grading system.


Oklahoma Sooners: A-

Out: Jeff Capel (96-69)

In: Lon Kruger (479-304)

Jeff Capel was obviously a strong recruiter who had a hard time keeping his horses in the corral once he got them on campus. This is not unfamiliar territory at the University of Oklahoma. The mixture of early entry with alleged malfeasance was a bad combo for a school that had some of the same issues under Kelvin Sampson. In that respect, Kruger is an excellent hire: he seems to be a guy who is in complete control of any program he’s coached, and there have been plenty of success stories in his time on the bench.

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Kruger was born in Kansas, so he’ll be near home. After a middling record at Texas-Pan American (which is pretty impressive, really), Kruger took over at Kansas State in 1986 and immediately guided the Wildcats to four straight NCAA appearances, including an Elite Eight appearance in ’88. That led him to a rebuilding gig at Florida, a school he turned into an NCAA tourney program as well. Then Illinois (three Dance invites in four years) and some time in the NBA. His return to the college ranks with UNLV went pretty well, with four appearances in seven years and another Elite Eight.

The only thing that makes this an A- in my mind  is Kruger’s age, but that could be ameliorated by the fact that he brought along a former player, K-State kamikaze Steve Henson, as an assistant coach along with another possible future successor. If Kruger can establish a foothold and leave the program in good hands, this is an excellent hire for the Sooners.

In essence, the Sooners get a coach on the brink of his 500<sup>th</sup> victory in exchange for someone who still has a lot to learn. Kudos to Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione for going after the man he really wanted for the job and making it happen.


Texas Tech Red Raiders: B

Out: Pat Knight (50-61)

In: Billy Gillispie (140-85)

I wrote before that I think Pat Knight seems like a pretty good guy who probably will be a good coach. This was just too much for a first job. Texas Tech is hardly a plum – even Pat’s legendary father struggled to get good recruits there, and only went to the NCAA tournament four times in seven years. Knight will have a chance to show what he can do in the future, and possibly earn a shot at something better down the road.

Gillispie, despite his baggage, is probably about as good a get as Tech could expect. Looking at his career as a whole, it’s clear that Kentucky was an aberration – a pressure cooker that has jellified any number of capable coaches since Adolph Rupp’s day. In fact, it may have been a blessing in disguise. Gillispie was forced to deal with his alcohol abuse issues, and may, in fact, come back stronger than before. Look at Bob Huggins for a best-case scenario.

Gillispie does really well in Texas, and he could take Tech somewhere it’s never been before. He did it for UTEP and Texas A&M, and he can probably, somehow, do it for the Red Raiders.


Missouri Tigers: D+

Out: Mike Anderson (200-98)

In: Frank Haith (129-101)

The unscientific consensus amongst hoops writers I spoke to at the Final Four is that this hire is a loser at the press conference that could end up being a winner on the court. The likelihood is that it will fall somewhere in between the Quin Snyder years and the success the Tigers enjoyed under Anderson’s tenure. It’s worth noting, however, that Mizzou never exactly became a Big 12 powerhouse under Anderson. A third-place finish in 2009, with attendant Elite Eight appearance, was as good as it ever got. So let’s not put too high a shine on the guy just yet.

Haith, on the other hand, doesn’t even look that strong. Very few Miami coaches do, so let’s take that as a caveat. Before Haith led the team to a 23-11 mark and a tourney appearance in 2009, the Hurricanes hadn’t exactly been a rocket to the stars. Leonard Hamilton, with three straight good seasons between 1998 and 2000, was the only coach to have made something out of the gig.

The thing about Haith is that he was a Rick Barnes assistant, and he’ll be back closer to his Midwestern recruiting grounds, where he did so well for the Texas Longhorns. Whether his previous success owed more to his personality or the profile of the school he was representing will be the key thing Mizzou fans will be holding their breath to find out.


Kansas State: Incomplete

Frank Martin has admitted that he’d love to be back home in Miami, which would make fans of the program doubly thrilled. Not only do they send Frank Haith off to possibly be one of the worst coaches in the Big 12, but they could get one of the league’s – if not the nation’s -- best coaches in return? Win-win all the way. Obviously, the Florida school pretty much has to put together exactly what Martin wants to lure him away, and K-State will probably try to do the same in order to keep him. The lure of home (and much shorter recruiting trips) could be the fulcrum this turns on.


If Martin leaves, the whole picture gets murky again. But for now, the conference seems to be in decent hands. The more concentrated ten-team league becomes a little tougher to win next season. These guys will have their work cut out for them.

Posted on: March 20, 2011 12:37 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 12:43 pm

Report: Billy Clyde back in the Big 12

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Billy Gillispie is back.

As has been rumored for the past week, Gillispie has agreed to become the head coach at Texas Tech, according to Jason King of Yahoo! Sports.

King also reported via Twitter that Gillispie’s five-year contract is worth $800,000 per year.

Gillispie last coached in 2009 at Kentucky, but was fired after not reaching the NCAA tournament. He was the head coach at UTEP and Texas A&M prior to being hired in Lexington.

The Texas native will replace Pat Knight, who was fired two weeks ago.

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 15, 2011 10:37 am

Coach Speak: targets for Oklahoma and NC State

Will Doc Sadler stay in the Big 12?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Two more expected firings have come down the pipe as we prepare for tournament coverage. Oklahoma let Jeff Capel go, and N.C. State finally ended the Sidney Lowe era.

One of the first things we like to do in these situations is look to see which coaches are on fan wish lists and try to sort out which are fantasies and which might actually happen.

Oklahoma: It's hard to believe that the man who brought us Blake Griffin is gone, but everything for Jeff Capel went downhill when the electrifying dunker left school early to go to the NBA. Strange names come up in the local newspapers for this one. Doc Sadler is mentioned, which isn't all that odd except that he's already struggled mightily to build a winning program at a football-oriented Big 12 school. It speaks well to the respect he has in the coaching community that both Texas Tech and Oklahoma have kept an eye on him. Right up there with Sadler is Marquette's Buzz Williams, who has also been mentioned for the Tech job. Billy Gillispie is on everyone's radar, so throw him in there, too.

The strange names are these: the Norman Transcript tosses out Miami's Frank Haith and UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma. Haith seems to be on the hot seat in Miami, but his history as an assistant at Texas (from whence he got the Miami job) may make him a popular choice. Auriemma is at the pinnacle of his sport, and has shown no willingness to toss that away in favor of the challenge of rebuilding a men's program just to show he can do it. Until Jim Calhoun retires, I wouldn't expect Auriemma to ever look at making that move.

N.C. State: Sidney Lowe's firing is so fresh that the local columnists haven't really weighed in with their wish lists yet. The website Sports by Brooks has a fanciful list (which they shoot down as well) of Rick Barnes, Tubby Smith, Sean Miller and Mark Fox. Three of those coaches are in the NCAA tournament. Barnes is slotted in at the school that figures to own and operate the Big 12 from here on out. Miller and Fox are seeing their rebuilding efforts start to pay off at Arizona and Georgia, respectively, so why start over after just two years? Tubby Smith doesn't really seem like he wants to leave Minnesota.

The guys at Backing the Pack have some candidates on their list that seems sensible. Xavier coach Chris Mack would be a great get. Some other mid-major geniuses on the list are Cuonzo Martin (Missouri State), Chris Mooney (Richmond) and Blaine Taylor (ODU). Any of those gentlemen would be a fine choice as well.

State allegedly has $3 million a year set aside to lure a top coach, so it'll be interesting to see who jumps at the bait of repairing this once-proud program.

We'll do this again when the next round of coaches gets the axe, and we will, of course, keep you apprised when hirings happen. They're so much nicer than firings.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 8, 2011 11:52 am

MU's Williams generating Buzz at Texas Tech

Buzz Williams is a native Texan, but would he leave the Big East for Lubbock?

Posted by Eric Angevine

So, Pat Knight is out at Texas Tech. Not too surprising. He had the same impossible task Sean Sutton had when he took over a Big 12 program from his Hall of Fame father, if not worse. The Red Raiders don't have anywhere near the hoops pedigree that the Oklahoma State Cowboys do, but their expectations are now sky-high because they once got lucky and hired Bobby Knight for a cameo appearance.

I suspect the younger Knight will get another chance. But where does the Texas Tech administration turn now? Newspapers across the Lone Star state are throwing out wish lists, so let's examine some of the more rational suggestions:

Billy Gillispie (Ronin): His name always comes up first, and for good reason. The guy was a barn-burning success at UTEP and Texas A&M before he got in over his head at Kentucky. Texas is his home state, and he'd likely be welcomed back into the Big 12 with open arms. Billy Clyde looks like the top choice right now.

Buzz Williams (Marquette): Another straight-shootin' Texan, which is why his name seems to come up when locals start dreaming. I don't know how much money Tech has to spend on this kind of hire, but I'd have to think it would take a pretty good upgrade to entice Williams from the powerful Big East to an also-ran in the shrinking Big 12. They'd love his free-wheeling style down in Lubbock, though.

Joe Dooley (Kansas): If you can't beat 'em, hire 'em. Dooley's is one of the top names to come up for every open job when assistant coaches are interviewed. He has a pretty good deal where he is, and he's seen other former KU assistants (Tim Jankovich at Illinois State being the most recent) struggle to succeed when disconnected from the Allen Field House magic. Then again, he probably doesn't want to wait forever, and the Big 12 is a soft landing no matter what.

Doc Sadler (Nebraska): I scoffed the first time I read this, then it came up again and again. He's a former Red Raider assistant who is well thought of at the school, so maybe they will make a run at him. Sadler would have to judge for himself if the risk is worth it: is he jumping before he is pushed out of the Big Ten-bound Husker program, or is he giving up just before new facilities and a new conference home turn things around?

These are the most frequently mentioned names for the gig, and it's not a bad list. The issue at this point will be finding the right fit vs. reaching for the exciting, sexy headline pick. Which is not to say that the headline pick is always a fraud - look at Steve Lavin's first year at St. John's for proof that it can work. But there might be an assistant coach out there, perhaps someone as near as Rodney Terry or Russell Springmann from Texas, who is the right fit for the job, yet won't get his due as a candidate because he's not a big name. We watched other large-conference schools (Oregon, DePaul and Wake Forest come to mind) go through this last summer only to be turned down repeatedly.

Having just attended the CAA final yesterday, I'd like to throw another name into the hat. Old Dominion's Blaine Taylor is not a Texan and has no ties to the state that I'm aware of. But the former Montana Grizzlies point guard just won back-to-back conference championships, can recruit, coaches tough defense and has a way with the media. If his team pulls another upset or two in the NCAA tournament this season, he'll be a very hot commodity. Someone at Tech should have the vision to look far and wide to find Taylor and others like him who might be ready for the next step, regardless of name recognition.

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Photo: US Presswire
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Posted on: February 8, 2011 2:11 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2011 2:12 pm

Will Billy Gillispie find a home this summer?

Posted by MATT JONES

One of college basketball’s biggest recent mysteries has been the status of Billy Gillispie. The former Kentucky coach has been missing in action for two years since his dismissal in Lexington and his name has bizarrely never been seriously linked to any other job in the country in the interim. Even though we have seen coaching retreads churned out at a number of schools and the man they call Billy Clyde has publicly stated he wants to get back into the coaching game, no University has given him a call.  And unfortunately for Gillispie, it seems that few have even truly given him much consideration.


But all of that may be about to change. As after every season, a number of coaching vacancies will occur this year, and this particular group seems to be particularly compatible with Gillispie. The first actual opening took place this week when Wyoming dismissed Heath Schroyer and immediately a set of Wyoming fans went to Facebook to begin suggesting Gillispie as their future coach. His name has also been associated with what is likely to be an opening at Texas Tech, a school with a history of dealing with controversial coaches.


Gillispie is often seen as an attractive candidate at schools such as Wyoming and Texas Tech because they share a common environment to his previous successful stops. Like the schools where Gillispie made his coaching name, UTEP and Texas A&M, they have a Western sensibility and are primarily football schools with a quiet, low-pressure environment where the media spotlight is far from bright.


Contrast that with the basketball-crazed culture where Gillispie’s career took a stumble at Kentucky. The Wildcats job is not for everyone and with it comes likely the brightest local spotlight of any college coaching gig in America. The UK media glare is stronger than with many NBA franchises and Gillispie’s weaknesses, which include media interaction and the public figure role of a college coaching job, were highlighted to an extreme degree in such an environment. Combine those problems with a public perception that he was consistently aloof and could not interact well with fans and players, and UK-Gillispie were destined to be a failed public marriage.


The question then remains whether Gillispie’s problems at Kentucky were simply due to a bad fit or have greater resonance beyond the Big Blue Nation. Former Kentucky basketball player Mark Krebs recently did a long interview on his time playing for Gillispie at Kentucky and highlighted all the struggles the coach had in Lexington. He expressed surprise that the coach had not been hired yet for a new position but acknowledged that there were many troubling moments while at UK that would give him pause if he were an Athletic Director. However, he did say that in the end he would let a certain type of son (one that was not a stary player and was mentally tough)of his play for Gillispie despite all of his difficulties.


After his two-year flameout in Lexington, where Gillispie was fired not so much for his inability on the court but the problems off, it is easy to forget how successful he was at his previous stops. Billy Gillispie resurrected the UTEP basketball program from nothing and began a turnaround at Texas A&M that led the university not only to the Sweet 16, but to a relevancy nationally that it still enjoys today.


However that success has been forgotten by most of college basketball, who instead remember his captaincy of the only Kentucky team not to make the NCAA Tournament since 1991 and the embarrassing way in which he departed Lexington.  For two years, Gillispie has been unable to bounce back and find a way to re-enter the college basketball game at a University for which he is a better fit. This summer may change that as programs such as Wyoming and Texas Tech re-examine a program with Gillispie at the helm. If not, one has to wonder when he will ever find a way back into big-time college basketball or if that ship has unfortunately permanently sailed.

Category: NCAAB
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