When you hear the news coming out of Lubbock, Texas it feels like a real-life version of Groundhog Day except with Billy Gillispie instead of Bill Murray. The ex-Kentucky coach is on the hot seat again three years after being run out of Lexington (literally if you count the chasing incident with Alan Cutler). On Wednesday, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt announced that the school reported secondary violations to the NCAA last season and subsequently reprimanded Coach Gillispie in January for exceeding limits on practice time. To top that off, reports have recently surfaced alleging mistreatment of players and staff. Among some of the alleged incidents include reneging on job offers, having players waste plane tickets they paid for, and making a player practice while having a stress fracture in both legs.
These current reports bring to mind similar occurrences alleged to have happened under his tenure at Kentucky. Some of those include making Josh Harrelson lock himself into a bathroom stall during a game at halftime, kicking Darius Miller off the team bus, forcing Perry Stevenson to eat Pop Tarts to gain weight, and pressuring Derrick Jasper to play too soon after surgery on a micro-fracture. Gillispie’s overzealous practice philosophy, particularly on game days, was a major source of criticism from fans and players during his time with the Wildcats as well. Players were viewed as fatigued during games, and many contributed that to losses against teams such as Gardner-Webb and VMI.
While we have yet to hear Gillispie’s side of the story due to his 6 day hospitalization for high blood pressure, his future at Texas Tech could be on thin ice after only one year as head coach. Since being hired, he has faced an exodus of fifteen players along with numerous assistants and members of the team staff. Last week, current players reportedly complained to the athletic director about their ongoing treatment with over practice being a major complaint. Recent comments from athletic director Hocutt stating his concern over the allegations don’t exactly inspire confidence either. Even if the particulars of the alleged incidents are not true, Gillispie’s past history along with his old school coaching philosophy are not desirable qualities to sell when you are trying to lure top recruits.
Looking back at the body of Gillispie’s career, he had a remarkably fast rise to the top from his first season at UTEP where he finished with only 6 wins to his eventual offer of an elite coaching job with Kentucky after only 5 years of Division I coaching experience. However, his subsequent fall from the top would be much quicker than his rise when he was fired after only two seasons at Kentucky. Texas Tech, a school that is certainly not squeamish about giving coaches second chances (see Bob Knight), extended to Gillispie his second chance after a two year hiatus.
The question going forward is will there be a third?
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