Friday, April 06, 2007

Billy Clyde, Part 2

Last week, this blog wrote of a bidding war between Texas A&M and Arkansas for the services of one Billy Clyde Gillispie as basketball coach. The bidding war did not really materialize, as A&M offered him a raise, and he did not return the Hogs' calls to interview for their open head coaching job.

But, a funny thing happened as the Aggie Board of Regents was approving the new contract. Gillispie agreed to it, but decided not to sign it? Why? Because he knew he had a chance at the Kentucky job. Kentucky went after Billy Donovan first, was rebuffed, then turned to Gillispie. This morning, the Big Blue hired Gillispie as head coach.

This is a good fit. Gillispie is a tireless recruiter. He helped recruit great teams at Tulsa and Illinois, before becoming head coach at UTEP and Texas A&M. He performed quick turnarounds at two schools that were nothing but easy. He is an extreme workaholic. According to a story last month in the Dallas Morning News, he stays up all night watching film, and is known to call other coaches at 2 A.M. He usually does not make time to fix or go out for breakfast, choosing to grab peanut butter crackers and Dr Pepper on the way to the office. He has a 3,000 square foot house that rarely has food in the pantry or refrigerator. Recently, he went six months without grocery shopping. He is supremely committed to basketball, and makes fun of himself for his failed eight-year marriage. (His poor ex-wife. She was married to him when he was coaching in high school and junior college, not making any money, then he chose basketball over her. He happened to become a multi-millionaire as a result) His one outside interest appears to be horse racing. Kentucky is an obvious attraction.

The Big Blue Nation is equally obsessed with winning. They just ran off a coach because he was only making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament, and was finishing 4th in the SEC East.

I wonder, if in 1994, while he was an assistant coach at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, that he even dreamed he would be the coach at Kentucky. I doubt if it even crossed his mind when he took his first head coaching job at UTEP. UTEP to A&M to Kentucky in six years is quite a career progression.

He has what we call a shirt-tail connection to Kentucky. In 1987-88, he was the head basketball coach at Copperas Cove High School in Texas. His boss: athletic director/head football coach Hal Mumme, who went on to become head football coach at Kentucky before the program fell victim to scandal.

As for A&M, don't worry about the Aggies. They have gotten a taste of basketball success, and won't allow themselves to fall off the basketball map. And, Gillispie wouldn't have left there for just any job. Kentucky is not just any job. Most coaches would crawl to Lexington for that job, as Eddie Sutton said he would do in the 80's when he went there from Arkansas.

The Big Blue Nation is in good hands.

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