Billy Clyde Gillispie (BCG) after just two seasons at the University of Kentucky will not be retained. His record after two seasons stood at just 40-27, including the school’s first opening round exit of the NCAA’s since 1987 and even worse an NIT appearance this season. This particular season was unacceptable to Kentucky, the Cats lost 14 games (tied 2nd worst in Cats history) including an 8-8 mark in a very pedestrian SEC. After games Kentucky fans were used to hearing Gillispie coin this phrase, “We got whipped.” Here is an actual response from Gillispie on his weekly call in show February 13th, “Just got whipped. You can analyze it all you want, got whipped at every position, on every play, offensively and defensively, in transition, they just got whipped. You can make up any excuse, analysis or theory all you want, but it comes down to that they got whipped.” Especially inspiring stuff coming from your head ball coach, wouldn’t you say?
To suggest this mess was entirely Gillispie’s fault would be misleading though. The Kentucky basketball program was left by Tubby Smith two years ago with a lack of talent not seen in 20+ years. Granted injuries and early graduation didn’t help matters, but still no one would claim BCG was left with a vintage Kentucky club, and the results showed. All it takes to make a Kentucky fan cringe these days is to mention the words: Gardner-Webb, San Diego, VMI, UAB, or Senior Day loss to Georgia. His fault or not some of the most embarrassing losses ever suffered by Kentucky at Rupp Arena were under BCG. And this March was perhaps the worst, the Kentucky Wildcats in the NIT.
It is hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t lived in the Commonwealth of Kentucky what those three letters mean to the University of Kentucky. That acronym is venomous term in Lexington. The best way I have to describe the shock of Kentucky being in the NIT was my mother’s reaction. My mother taught at UK from 1996-2001, which one could argue was the pinnacle of Kentucky’s great basketball history, three straight title game appearances and two title banners. When we talked the Monday after the brackets came out she was shocked to hear Kentucky hadn’t made the tournament. She asked what happened, just as everyone in Lexington was still working to figure it all out. BCG’s run as the Kentucky coach began with the embarrassing Pre-Season NIT loss to Gardner-Webb and ended with the Cats’ NIT loss to Notre Dame Wednesday.
On March 23, 2007 a day after Tubby Smith left Kentucky, here is what I wrote…
Regardless of whom steps in Kentucky fans will need to patient, something they’ve proven pretty incapable of. The Cats in recent years have had sub-par recruiting classes, and the next coach will have to deal with that reality. The recruiting ultimately is probably what led to this situation. Right or wrong Tubby received a reputation in Lexington for not being able to bring in the big recruits. A perception that isn’t aided much while watching this years NCAA tournament. Chris Lofton of Tennessee who almost single handedly beat Ohio State last night, and all SEC guard Corey Brewer of Florida were both Kentucky property if Tubby had wanted them.
The dust will all settle and Kentucky will have a new basketball coach for next year. He will face incredible scrutiny but also immeasurable support from Cats fans, the two sided coin that is Lexington. A record 13,658 fans were on CatsPause.com, Kentucky’s online community last night dissecting the past and discussing the future. They will all embrace a new coach as Kentucky’s drive for their 8th national championship continues.
Author’s Note: The CatsPause.com record was set again this afternoon as BCG news became official, currently stands at, 20,921.
As Kentucky embarks on yet another search for a coach, everything remains pretty much the same. Kentucky fans will embrace whoever comes into Lexington, BUT and it is a big but, the new coach will have to deliver the Wildcats back to the Sweet Sixteen, both Gillispie and Tubby Smith have been let go/pushed out during the Regional Semi-Finals. If the next coach wants to outlast Rich Brooks (the football coach) he better find himself conducting press-conferences from the Regional’s in late March.
The heading coaching job of Kentucky Basketball is a double edged sword, there is no greater thrill than winning a game at Rupp Arena, but the opposite is also true, Cats fans right or wrong will not tolerate losing, particularly to the Gardner-Webb’s of the world. So Coaches who want this job or take this job should be very careful, at Memphis or Florida you may get some lee way after a tough loss. But if Billy Donovan or John Calipari come to Lexington and lose you better have a better answer than “we got whipped.”
Disclaimer: I am a huge Kentucky basketball fan, and I appreciate all the Tubby and Billy have done for the program. At the time and even today I wish the Cats had given Tubby and Billy more time to succeed. And that puts me in the minority and I still write this positively about them… Go Cats.
About the Author
Written by Nich Hall