Billy G is officially gone. I don’t feel the relief or happiness that a lot of fans feel, but I’m not bummed out about it. UK’s mistake was rushing into hiring G. There as only a two week span between Tubby Smith leaving and Gillispie’s hiring. That’s not enough time to let the tension around the situation dissolve and evaluate a few choices for the job. What makes things worse is that UK got permission to speak with Gillispie on April 5, 2007 and Gillispie accepted the job on April 6. I was a bit glad to hear that Florida coach Billy Donovan turned down the job because UK would have been making the same mistake. I heard many people talking about how Donovan flew into Lexington Thursday night and would be announced as coach on Friday morning. One day we’ll learn that hiring the right coach takes longer than 24 hours.
I’ve criticized G’s technique and strategy ad nauseum, but I do think that if you hire a guy that you have to give him at least 3 years to showcase himself. The first year is a season of trial and error. Last year Gillispie won 18 games lost their first game in the SEC Tournament as well as the NCAA Tournament. The second season is getting a sense of “your guys” and really getting into the atmosphere. This year he won 22 games, won a game in the SEC tourney and won 2 games in the NIT. By the third year it’s go time. You’ve had your guys for two years and had a chance to work with the predecessors guys. Billy G never got that and in a sense it’s unfair. Not to mention that whether many fans want to admit it or not, he was stepping into some pretty big shoes. Tubby had a championship to his name, never won less than 22 games in a season at UK and was a model citizen to boot. Gillispie’s short answers to the press, love for the booze and alleged affection for the co-eds didn’t play well in Lexington. According to all reports, that’s the same guy he was at UTEP and Texas A&M so why would he be any different here? Again, that’s our fault for hiring a coach without really finding out what he’s about off the basketball court.
So what now? I don’t know to be honest with you. Donovan officially turned the job down today. I’ve heard Rick Barnes (Texas), Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Tom Izzo’s(Michigan State) names as well but I have a hard time believing any of those guys would leave for the excessively bright limelight that comes with the Kentucky job. Do you take Calipari fresh off an upset and “just” a Sweet Sixteen appearance? Calipari gets guys with less than pristine track records and I don’t know how that would fly here. I remember a few years ago, people wanted Gerald Fitch off of the team for using a fake ID to get into a bar. Calipari’s star freshman Tyreke Evans was involved in driving the getaway car during a drive-by shooting where a guy got killed, and Calipari welcomed him with open arms. I don’t know who the ideal guy is, but after being scorned I think it has to be a high character guy. Make no mistakes about it, if G won 30 games this year and the Cats were still playing ball, he could have went Fatal Attraction on Flo Rida’s rabbit and no one would have cared. That’s why I’m not buying the “irreconcilable differences” excuse as the reason why Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart. Winning makes anything reconcilable.
I think Coach Gillispie will land on his feet somewhere. I hear that the Texas Tech job may become open and that’d be ideal for him. He could back to his home state of Texas, and be able to do as he pleases out of the public light. I didn’t always agree with his decisions, but I don’t think he got a far shake and I wish well at his next venture. I do have to wonder what becomes of Daniel Orton and Jon Hood. Orton, the #3 center in the country, is supposed to be the big man UK has lacked since the heyday of Jamaal Magloire. Jon Hood, the #7 shooting guard in the country, is a Kentucky native who was expected to bring a big spark off of the bench. Now, who knows if either of those guys comes. The good news is that Meeks and Patterson are reportedly on board to return next season after the firing of Gillispie, but somehow I don’t see that as enough to guarantee us a spot in the Final Four as many other (read: delusional) fans are predicting. I’m interested to see how this will play out and I wonder if we will learn our lesson in hiring a coach, or blindly stumble into another situation destined to struggle from the get go.