Friday, March 27, 2009

Some things fit right...

...Others don't.

Kentucky fired Coach Gillispie today. And most think it wasn't an X&O or W&L issue. It's because he wasn't the right "ambassador" for the blue-blood Wildcat nation.

Billy Clyde Gillispie is 49 years old, and spent most of that time in small towns and isolated cities in Texas. He grew up in Graford, pop. 494, and was part of a high school graduating class of 20.

After six years as Bill Self's main assistant at Tulsa and Illinois, Gilliespie took the UTEP job. Year one: 6-24. Year two: WAC champs.

For those who think BCG lacks interpersonal skills because of a couple of dismissive TV interviews, the late great coach Don Haskins said just a couple of years ago, "If I had a recruiter like Billy Gillispie on my staff, I'd coach in a wheelchair."

Gillispie went to Texas A&M to turn around a team that was 0-16 in the Big 12. Year one: 8-8. Year two: NCAAs. Year three: Sweet 16.

College Station is where the suit fit the best. A small-town Texas guy had built up tons of relationships in the Lone Star state, and he was the savior of Aggie basketball. As a single guy, he could sit on a barstool and not be harassed.

Kentucky, after the departure of Tubby Smith, and a couple of fiascos trying to bring in someone bigger, reached down to Texas A&M and grabbed a can't-miss-rising-star head coach.

But they didn't think about whether the blue suit would fit. They didn't see the 2-hour late-season practices that surely wore his team down come tournament time. They didn't expect the curt treatment of the media. They didn't imagine that he wouldn't embrace the rabid fan base.

I was at Coach G's last two games this week: at Creighton and at Notre Dame. His team was in good spirits, they practiced loose and with lots of energy. They hustled their asses off. If they were playing for a lame-duck coach, you couldn't see it on the floor.

It's hard to call Gillispie's two-year term at Kentucky a failure. More like an incomplete, since the plug was pulled before the term was up. Now, where does Kentucky go from here?

It's got to be back to Billy Donovan. Coach D turned down Kentucky during his 2007 NCAA Championship run at Florida. After back-to-back titles, he may be bored with his back-to-back NIT appearances. Oh yeah, and he could be a little miffed that Florida only sold out one of their 20 home games.

If the former Kentucky assistant for Rick Pitino says "no thanks" to Kentucky again, the Wildcats will be back where they started, looking for the right "fit".

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