The last time you saw Billy Gillispie, he was the victim of one of the most awkward TV news chases of all time. Oh, and then there was that whole DUI thing, which was Gillispie's brief re-emergence into the news after his days at UK were cut short and John Calipari was hired in his place. Those headlines were about as pleasant as being chased by Lexington TV people as you pretend to take a phone call. Which is to say: not pleasant at all.
This, however, is much better. A year removed from the end of his Kentucky career, with a stint in rehab behind him, Gillispie seems to have a much better attitude. The coach known for his brutal, borderline angry coaching style seems downright ... serene.
A positive attitude about his successors at Kentucky? Check:
"To be able to do what they have done so quickly, no one has more respect for that than me, because I have been part of that [at UT-El Paso and Texas A&M]. I think they made a smart move [in hiring John Calipari]. It affected me a little bit, but I will bounce back."
An understanding that his fate is merely part of coaching in a pressure-packed place like Lexington? Check.
"I met a lot of great people there and I don't have any ill will toward Kentucky," he said. "The Kentucky fans are as good as there is in the history of sport. I got fired from the job, but I understand how the business works."
An attitude that begets reflection, inner peace and responsibility? Don't look now, but check, check and check.
"I think it's been a great year for me," he said. "I've been on the fast track for a long time professionally. I never had a chance to take a deep breath.
"I've forced myself to become educated in a lot of different areas because of some of the mistakes I've made, and I think I've used my time wisely. I think I've enriched myself as a person and helped myself as a coach.
"I don't know that this is not one of the best things that has ever happened in my life."
Whoa. Billy Gillispie gets it, man. How often since the coach's Kentucky career have we been able to say that?
Gillispie would have landed somewhere as a coach in the next year or so even if he would have come out of his exile with rhetorical guns blazing. Some school would have taken him on, and Gillispie could have used a desperate program to catapult himself back into the national conversation. Let's not forget how good he was at UTEP and Texas A&M, after all; personal warts and all, the man can coach.
But if this is his attitude, Gillispie will be back on the sideline even sooner, and he won't need to lower himself to sketchy standards to do so. Billy Gillispie seems downright ... changed. Centered. Together. Add in his talent, and it would seem we haven't heard the last from Gillispie just yet.