College Basketball Nation: Billy Gillispie

3-point shot: Missouri-Dixon fallout

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
5:00
AM ET
1. There are a few issues with the Michael Dixon Jr. situation at Missouri. I'm not sure why Missouri allowed Dixon to announce he was transferring from the program instead of dismissing him first. The reporting on the story from Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia paints a much different picture, indicating that the senior guard was accused of two sexual assaults during his time at the school. Dixon, whom the Tigers suspended to start this season, will likely have trouble finding a new home to finish his college career. Based on the news Thursday, I find it hard to believe that another school would take a chance on him. The Tigers did the right thing by suspending him, but could have taken another step and let him go before the stories broke Thursday. Missouri will be fine on the court without him. This is a deep team that will add scoring guard Jabari Brown, an Oregon transfer, in a few weeks to pair up with Phil Pressey. The Tigers are still a legit threat to finish in the top three in the SEC. Having Dixon gone will ultimately be better for all parties involved.

2. Former Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie left quite an advantageous schedule, one that doesn't have the Red Raiders leaving Lubbock until Jan. 5. Interim coach Chris Walker has taken advantage of the opportunity. The Red Raiders, who are 4-0 and 3-0 against (low-level) Division I competition, are second in the country in scoring at 88.8 points per game. Texas Tech will get a real barometer on its progress Saturday when it hosts No. 9 Arizona. Texas Tech also gets Alabama on Dec. 19 and Arizona State on Dec. 22. That first road game is at TCU in the Big 12 opener. "We just have to play harder and more together,'' said Walker. "We've got to limit (Arizona's) transition and offensive rebounds. That will give us a chance.''

3. We may find out if Wyoming is a pretender or a contender Saturday when the 7-0 Cowboys host No. 19 Colorado. Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt is notorious for light nonconference scheduling, but now the Cowboys will be truly tested. The depth of the Mountain West is legit (see Boise State's victory Wednesday at Creighton). Assistant coach Scott Duncan said that, with a great crowd at the Arena-Auditorium, if Wyoming can continue to play tough defense, limit the 3s and make some of its own, the Pokes can pull off the upset.
College basketball is a multibillion-dollar sport. With so much money at stake -- along with the prestige and exposure that comes with consistent success -- there’s always pressure on coaches to win.

The following list doesn’t necessarily include coaches who are on the “hot seat.” Only the athletic directors and insiders privy to the true statuses of these coaches know what’s necessary for each to maintain his current position. From the outside, however, they all appear to be coaches who need to win. Now.

Another lukewarm season might not cost them their jobs. But it certainly won’t help their respective causes.

Here’s my list of 10 coaches who need to win now:

  1. [+] EnlargeSmith
    Bruce Thorson/US PresswireTubby Smith has yet to lead Minnesota to an NCAA tournament victory in five seasons on the job.
    Tubby Smith (Minnesota) -- Smith has reached the NCAA tournament twice in five seasons since he left Kentucky to take the Minnesota gig in 2007. But he hasn’t won a game in the Big Dance during his time with the Gophers. The extension he signed in the offseason will mean little if the Gophers miss the NCAA tournament again. New athletic director Norwood Teague came from Virginia Commonwealth, where Shaka Smart helped that program attain national relevancy. Teague expects the same in Minneapolis. So the pressure continues to rise for Smith, who’s endured multiple off-court incidents during his term. Proof that he’s seeking public support: Smith now allows media in the locker room after games, a first in his tenure.
  2. Ben Howland (UCLA) -- Accomplishments in college basketball are quickly forgotten. That’s why Howland’s back-to-back-to-back run to the Final Four from 2006 to 2008 seems like an ancient feat. Howland’s recent years have been plagued by personnel issues and underachievement. But there’s a strong buzz surrounding his 2012 recruiting class. Howland, once again, has a roster than can make a run in March, assuming Shabazz Muhammad is cleared by the NCAA. The flip side of the hoopla is that UCLA’s fan base will likely bemoan anything less. So the Bruins must reach their potential, it seems, to keep Howland’s seat cool.
  3. Bill Carmody (Northwestern) -- Northwestern is not a football school or a basketball school. It’s a school school, one that places a great emphasis on its broad academic imprint. But there is discontent with the men’s basketball team’s inability to reach the NCAA tournament. It has never happened. The Wildcats have come close in the past three years -- the most fruitful stretch in the program’s history -- but those seasons all ended without a bid. The swell of disappointment has grown with each close call. Athletic director Jim Phillips reportedly considered a change but ultimately gave Carmody, who is entering his 13th season, a vote of confidence after another possible berth slipped away last season. He might not receive the same support in a similar scenario this season.
  4. Travis Ford (Oklahoma State) -- In his first two seasons, Ford led the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament. But the program hasn’t met that bar since 2010. Last year, Ford had an NBA prospect (Le'Bryan Nash) and multiple high-level athletes but still struggled in the Big 12 due to a subpar defense (the Cowboys' 70.8 points per game allowed was the second-highest tally in the league). Oklahoma State continues to invest in basketball. Its latest project, a multimillion-dollar upgrade of the program’s locker room, illustrated its commitment to the sport. But it’s equally interested in winning. And Ford has missed the mark in recent years. He had a young team a year ago, but this season’s group is so talented -- enter Marcus Smart -- that youth won’t be a valid excuse again.
  5. Herb Sendek (Arizona State) -- Few programs endured Arizona State’s offseason shift. Sendek added assistants Eric Musselman and Larry Greer, two men who’ve coached in the NBA, to his staff after finishing with a 10-21 record in 2011-12. Sendek also lost top scorer Trent Lockett (13.0 ppg), who transferred to Marquette to be closer to an ailing mother in Minnesota. The good news: Talented point guard Jahii Carson is eligible. But Carson's presence and the additions to his staff won’t guarantee additional years for Sendek, who was the Pac-12’s coach of the year in 2010. He has to find a way to climb out of the league’s basement in 2012-13.
  6. Craig Robinson (Oregon State) -- President Barack Obama’s brother-in-law has gradually upgraded the talent in Corvallis in his first four years. His best player last year, Jared Cunningham, was a first-round pick in the 2012 NBA draft. But Robinson is still trying to prove that the Beavers are on the rise after finishing seven games under .500 in his first four years (64-71). Last year’s 21-win season was both promising and disappointing. Oregon State had its chances but ultimately finished with a 7-11 mark in Pac-12 play. The loss of Cunningham was a tough one for the program. But its greatest problem last season -- a defense that was ranked 154th in defensive efficiency -- was a collective issue. It’s something Robinson must address in 2012-13.
  7. Kevin Ollie (Connecticut)/Chris Walker (Texas Tech) -- Both Ollie and Walker were placed in similarly uninspiring situations during the offseason. After Jim Calhoun retired, Ollie signed a one-year contract to coach a Huskies team that lost top talents Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi and will not compete in the postseason due to a subpar Academic Progress Rate score. After former head coach Billy Gillispie’s messy offseason exit, Walker inherited a Texas Tech squad that earned one Big 12 victory last season (1-17). Neither Ollie nor Walker is promised anything beyond this season. And their circumstances will limit their abilities to turn their “temporary” tags into permanent ones.
  8. [+] EnlargeJeff Bzdelik
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJeff Bzdelik enters his third year at Wake Forest with just five total ACC victories to his credit.
    Jeff Bzdelik (Wake Forest) -- From 2001 to 2005, the Demon Deacons reached the NCAA tournament. They also secured back-to-back trips in 2009 and 2010. But Bzdelik’s first two seasons were rocky. Under his watch, Wake Forest achieved one ACC victory in 2010-11 and four last year. That’s progress. But is it enough to satisfy a fan base that will watch the neighbors on Tobacco Road (North Carolina State, North Carolina and Duke) enter the season as potential national championship contenders? Bzdelik is on the right track, and Travis McKie and C.J. Harris should help the program move forward in his third season, too. Any movement in the other direction, however, will encourage more scrutiny of Bzdelik’s job status.
  9. Andy Kennedy (Ole Miss) -- Kennedy averaged more than 20 wins in his first six seasons, but his program’s name was never called on Selection Sunday. And close never suffices in college basketball. Kennedy’s legacy won’t be defined by his consistency as much it will be marked by the program’s ongoing NCAA tournament drought and his efforts to end it in 2012-13. That’s crucial for Kennedy, who might have a tough time convincing his superiors to keep him with another respectable finish that doesn’t involve a trip to the Big Dance.
  10. Ken Bone (Washington State) -- Bone’s program returns the Pac-12’s leading scorer, Brock Motum (18.0 ppg last season). But Motum’s presence only intensifies the expectations for the Cougars. Bone hasn’t led the team to the NCAA tournament since replacing Tony Bennett in 2009. The Cougars have been inconsistent. A suspect defense (141st in defensive efficiency last year) hasn’t helped. But this season’s Pac-12 is filled with unknowns. Washington State can rise in the standings if it’s tough on both ends of the floor. Another mediocre year sans an NCAA tournament berth, however, will not help Bone extend his time in Pullman.
1. Mike Marra’s season/career-ending ACL injury at Louisville won’t have a dramatic effect on the potential Final Four Cardinals. Injuries had prevented Marra from having a dominant impact on the team over the course of the past year. Marra could hit situational shots, but Louisville coach Rick Pitino said the Cardinals aren’t going to be a team defined by making 3s. Pitino said Sunday the Cards probably will only make six-to-seven a game (that’s still pretty good) with the best shooter on the squad in Luke Hancock. Kevin Ware and Peyton Siva have improved quite a bit, too. The Cardinals will miss Marra’s on-court enthusiasm but clearly they will survive his absence.

2. Expect Texas Tech to make a decision some time this week on whether acting interim coach Chris Walker gets to replace head coach Billy Gillispie for the season. A decision could come as early as Tuesday. Walker has kept a low profile and while there isn’t a gag order from the staff and players, the consensus is to keep things quiet while athletic director Kirby Hocutt decides whether to stay inside or go outside for a new coach to lead the Red Raiders during the 2012-13 season.

3. Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor isn’t seeing any effects of the pending move to Conference USA in 2013 on the recruiting trail. He’s not worried, though, considering the Monarchs tend to land who they will, regardless of conference affiliation. But what Taylor did do to combat the Colonial Athletic Association’s decision to uphold the bylaw and prevent ODU from playing in the conference tournament was to upgrade the non-conference schedule. The last three games the Monarchs added were VCU, Murray State and College of Charleston. “It’s a helluva of a challenge for one of my youngest teams," said Taylor. ODU would need all the help it can get to be in in position for an at-large bid without the benefit of the automatic qualification out of the CAA tourney.

3-point shot: Memphis sees Big East boost

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
5:00
AM ET
1. The impending move to the Big East apparently wasn't what sold top-30 prospect Kuran Iverson on Memphis, but the Tigers are feeling the positive effects in recruiting, according to those close to the program. Memphis coach Josh Pastner has been told a number of times by AAU coaches, high school coaches and parents that the Tigers’ conference switch is a big deal. The Big East name carries significant weight for the Tigers and allows Pastner to sell to recruits that they will get home to the Northeast. The Big East will open up a new channel of recruiting for the Tigers. The Big East brand is changing, but it’s not losing its influence. The only difference is that new teams will benefit -- instead of some of the traditional programs that are departing.

2. Texas Tech still hasn’t decided on whether or not Chris Walker will be the full-time interim coach in the wake of Billy Gilliispie’s resignation. But a number of coaches who potentially could have been on the Tech short list for a gig are under the impression that Walker is the clear leader, according to multiple sources. Meanwhile, Texas Tech hasn’t changed its plan of naming a coach for this season during the next two weeks. Walker was tabbed as the day-to-day coach by Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt until either he or another coach is named interim coach.

3. Maryland is still a few weeks away from finding out if transfer Dez Wells has a shot at a waiver to play immediately after being expelled from Xavier. The Terps are hoping to find precedent that Wells is eligible but wasn’t allowed to play at Xavier after he was dismissed from Xavier for a violation of the school’s honor code. A grand jury didn’t indict him over a sexual-assault charge.

Texas Tech disaster begins next phase

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
1:45
PM ET

Remember when Billy Gillispie was hired at Texas Tech? Remember when he seemed likely to make Texas Tech a perennially solid program and Big 12 competitor? This was a place where, with the possible exception of the Bob Knight years, basketball has usually been an afterthought. The UTEP and A&M native was perfect for the gig. Things didn't work out at Kentucky, but Kentucky wasn't his style. Back in his comfort zone, Gillispie was sure to thrive.

Believe it or not, all of that optimism began just last spring. Now? Texas Tech is an utter disaster, a crater where a basketball program used to be. No one knows where it goes from here.

Our own Dana O'Neil, in a perfect epigraph to this sordid no-win situation, says that's true of Gillispie personally, whose future could go one of two directions. Either he'll see this opportunity as his personal bottom and realize his lifestyle, his interactions, his everything-else-that-got-him-here needs to change for the better, and needs to change now. Or the downward spiral, which seems to have begun before the infamous Kentucky firing, will continue. For the sake of a man who seems to have a lot of issues, physical and mental, let's hope he gets it figured out. Like him or not, the way this thing ended for Gillispie was sad. Or, if you prefer, pathetic. Probably both.

The massive uncertainty in outcome is just as true of Texas Tech basketball. Andy Katz covered that angle on his blog today, calling athletic director Kirby Hocutt's coming decision "the most important of his career." No pressure, Kirby:
"This isn't UCLA or Indiana or Arizona, where you can bounce right back," said a coach with Texas ties who didn't want to use his name. "It's going to be extremely tough to do at a place like Texas Tech that is now at the bottom of the Big 12." ...

... "You've got to know the people," said one coach with West Texas ties. "You've got to be creative. You've got to have a niche recruiting wise. The people in West Texas have to feel you. They want to know you.

"Who's going to go there and play if you can't really sell it over the next seven months. If you can't, then it will set them back years."

A few names pop up throughout Katz's piece, including North Texas coach Tony Benford, North Texas assistant Rob Evans, former New Mexico State coach (and constant UNLV/West Coast bridesmaid) Reggie Theus, and, last but not least, former Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler.

First, Texas Tech has to hire an interim coach. It's difficult to imagine any actual head coach coming to Lubbock right now, just a month away from the start of practice, with so much turmoil and turnover inside Red Raiders program.

Even the best long-term recommendation is to stay away. I say that especially for Sadler. After years trying to build a nonexistent program at Nebraska -- frustrating, wheel-spinning years -- Sadler was let go just in time for the Cornhuskers to actually, you know, invest in the program. His farewell news conference was highly emotional; you could see how much winning at Nebraska meant to the guy, how much he wanted his labor to pay off. After that turmoil, the Sadler finally caught a break, landing a cherished spot on Bill Self's staff at Kansas. Now, Sadler -- a stand-up guy by all accounts -- gets to enjoy being on the other side of Kansas' near-decade-long run of Big 12 title dominance.

Sadler may crave the chance to build something of his own from scratch. Nearly every coach does. But most of the candidates who would consider the Tech job now or in the long-term don't have the benefit of their current position in the gilded fortress of Allen Fieldhouse. Texas Tech is so far gone right now -- and doesn't exactly have a strong hoops history anyway -- that Sadler's move would only seem destined to make him miserable once more. It'd be like "Breaking Bad," hoops edition.

Anyway, this is not about Sadler. It's about Texas Tech's basketball future. It's about whether this program can recover from such an unmitigated mutinous disaster, how long that will take, and whether any semi-established coach will be able to do it. Or, for that matter, willing.

Video: King on Gillispie's resignation

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
10:11
PM ET
video
Jason King with the latest on Billy Gillispie's resignation from Texas Tech, his recent health issues, and where the Red Raiders will go from here.

No winners in Gillispie saga -- not yet

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
10:08
PM ET
There is no joy in Lubbock.

Or at least there shouldn't be.

The Texas Tech saga reached its inevitable and, frankly, only conclusion with Thursday's announcement that Billy Gillispie had resigned to concentrate on his health.

But this isn't a win by any means for anyone.

Certainly not for Texas Tech, which is about to have a different coach for a third straight season and has to reconfigure its program a month shy of practice -- with all of eight wins to build on from last season.

Not for Gillispie, whose reputation is in tatters after burning coaching bridges in Lubbock and Lexington, Ky., in a mere three combined seasons.

And not even for the players, whose in-house insurrection against their coach sparked all of this. They are left with an interim head coach and the stigma of this entire sordid affair.

No, this is not a day to celebrate or even breathe a sigh of relief in Lubbock.

For Dana O'Neil's full story, click here.

Video: Dana O'Neil on Gillispie resignation

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
7:47
PM ET


Dana O'Neil discusses Billy Gillispie's resignation as Texas Tech men's basketball coach due to health reasons.
Whatever your thoughts on Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie -- and the past two weeks have been filled with folks' opinions on Gillispie, including his current players, former players and former colleagues, ranging from outright mutiny to unyielding support -- it's clear that the guy has some pretty serious health issues to deal with.

Namely: stress, and how that stress affects his blood pressure. According to the Associated Press, Gillispie confirmed via text message that he'd been treated at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for kidney problems and "abnormal headaches." His doctors' prescription? No stress for at least 30 days (as first reported by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal):
The Avalanche-Journal received a text message from an unknown source Sunday night. The text said Gillispie had been treated at the clinic for abnormal headaches and kidney problems and was ordered to live in the stress-free environment while trying to get his high blood pressure under control.

A text was sent to Gillispie’s phone number and the response to the A-J confirmed the information was accurate.

That whole process of confirmation -- an unknown text message, followed by a confirmation -- is pretty weird, in and of itself. But it's beside the point. The point is that Gillispie has received his marching orders from doctors, and he is not going to be able to return to the Texas Tech situation for at least a month's time.

That's probably a good thing. Like I wrote above: Whatever you think of the guy, Gillispie clearly has some pretty serious health issues to deal with. We're all stressed out, of course, but how we process that stress differs, and Gillispie doesn't seem to handle that stress at all well. He needs time to rest, recuperate, and move on.

But what happens when he does? That question won't go away. Gillispie won't be able to return to his program after 30 days and say, "See, all better." Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt has ordered him to avoid the program while he takes care of his health. What happens when he returns? Will his recovery, or any renewed outlook he may evince after the fact, affect Hocutt's decision in the slightest? We don't know, and we won't find out for at least four weeks. And so the strange saga in Lubbock continues.

Video: Gillispie told not to contact team

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
7:58
PM ET

Andy Katz on Texas Tech head coach Billy Gillispie told not to have any contact with the team.

Texas Tech star no fan of Gillispie

September, 10, 2012
9/10/12
5:35
PM ET
video
Earlier today, I wrote about the weekend's batch of former players, family members and coaches who had come to embattled Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie's defense, following last week's messy news of a player revolt and a score of stories about Gillispie's alleged mistreatment of players.

It is no surprise there is still more of the story to digest, as ESPN.com's Andy Katz reported this afternoon. Andy spoke with Red Raiders leading scorer Jordan Tolbert, who flatly said he did not want to play for Gillispie if the coach returned in 2012-13:
"I don't," Tolbert said by phone. "I don't. Maybe I would for the assistants. I haven't put that much thought into it. There is a big sense of urgency. I don't want to play for him if he comes back."

"We just don't know," Tolbert said. "We're waiting to find out like everyone else. I haven't seen or talked to him in two or three weeks. [...] We still can be good. But we do need a coach."
After nearly a week of back-and-forth, we've gotten perilously close to exhausting our abilities to describe this story, let alone argue and inveigh one way or another. It seems like a long shot that Gillispie will be retained, despite the outpouring of support; it also seems likely that a very rude, very driven, very brusque, arguably slightly imbalanced individual is probably not quite as bad as some current players' reports of his behavior made him seem.

But I'm done trying to figure this thing out, at least until we hear from Tech AD Kirby Hocutt.

What a mess. Honestly, that's all I've got. What. A. Mess.
The allegations leveled against Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie last week -- that he frequently broke rules governing practice length, forced players to practice for eight hours at a time, forced players to play and practice when injured, that he doesn't interact well with assistant coaches and program staffers, and more in an ongoing litany of offenses that caused players to openly revolt and appeal to Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt last week -- may already be too much for Gillispie to overcome. Last week, as these revelations took on a life of their own, it was impossible to imagine Tech keeping Gillispie around for any other reason than legally binding contract requirements. He seemed done, and rightfully so. Things in Lubbock had gone horribly awry.

Since then, though, something strange -- well, if not strange, then at least surprising -- has happened: Billy Clyde has received an outpouring of support. On Saturday, ESPN.com's Jason King published a story quoting former players who spoke out on behalf of their old coach, including Robert Lewandowski, who started for Gillispie last season and plays professionally in Poland now:
"I would play for him again," Robert Lewandowski wrote in an email from Poland, where he plays professionally. "He loves his players, with no exceptions. I would never doubt that for a second. Playing for him was tough, but I came out alive and a better person for it."

"I wouldn't change anything that happened over the last four years," said Lewandowski, who spent three seasons under Pat Knight before Gillispie was hired in March 2011. "Coach Gillispie pushed me to my physical and mental limits, and I came out an improved person. I know I can handle anything that comes my way. The process wasn't very pretty, but isn't that how life usually is?"

Current Texas Tech broadcaster Andy Ellis -- who played for Bob Knight at the program and traveled with the team throughout last season -- told King that he never saw Gillispie cross the line last season. Other accounts from former players were similar: Gillispie was a difficult guy, sure, and he could be tough, but he wasn't the full-on bad guy caricature other accounts had made him out to be.

Another defense came from Kansas coach Bill Self. Self admitted Gillispie was "tough," but he also questioned new players' concerns about a program's overall well-being ("To have players who have only been in a program for a year or two and be such experts on what it takes to win and how to be treated is a little bit hard to grasp," Self said). Self said that all coaches have looked back on situations they could have handled better, and said that he found it necessary to speak on behalf of an old friend, but more importantly a fellow coach, because Gillispie's side of the story had been under-represented:
"I'm sure he's done some things as a coach that he looked back on and said, 'Whoa ... I got up against the line today. I toed the line a little bit.' But you know what? We've all done that at some point in time when we're trying to get our teams prepared to play at a high level. Ask any coach in America, and he'll tell you there was a time when he said something when he was under stress or something he did under the gun where he went back and said, 'Ooohhh, I wish I would've handled that differently.' [...]

"I'm not defending him. He's a good friend, but that's not why I'm talking. I would defend any coach in a situation where he's trying to do things a certain way to get his program to the point where he thinks it deserves to be. Mistreatment of players should never occur, but there are also two sides to every story. That certainly appears to be the case here, because after hearing from his enemies early, now we've heard from guys who say, 'Oh man, he was so hard on me, but I'm a better man for it.' Including players in his current program.

Perhaps the most authoritative voice speaking on Gillispie's behalf came from Jerry Nash, father of former Texas Tech transfer Jaron Nash. Nash, who transferred to North Dakota after spending one season under Gillispie at Texas Tech, told CBSSports.com that one day Gillispie forced players to practice "almost all day," to the point that several players suffered injuries, including one player who "had a stress fracture in both legs." But on Sunday, Nash's father, Jerry Nash, disputed the impression his son's quote had given about his former coach. He told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that his son's decision to transfer had "nothing to do with Gillispie"; instead, Nash transferred to be closer to Jerry Nash, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
“A big part of fighting MS is not getting depressed, trying to stay positive,” Jerry Nash said. “Being able to see Jaron play, that’s everything to me.”

Jaron Nash heeded his father’s wishes and asked for his scholarship release following last season. Jerry Nash said he appreciates the way Gillispie handled the situation, and it didn’t stop at allowing his son’s release, he said.

Shortly after Nash was granted that release, Gillispie helped enter the Tech team into an awareness walk for multiple sclerosis around Jones AT&T Stadium as a tribute to Jerry Nash, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1999, he said.

“When Ron-Ron showed me video of that,” Jerry Nash said, “it brought tears to my eyes.”

[...] “Billy Gillispie is a friend of mine,” Jerry Nash said. “I consider him a great coach, a great person and a great man.”

Where do we go from here? It's hard to say. But just as it seemed impossible for Gillispie to keep his job last week, it's equally impossible to fully dismiss the wide-ranging defenses offered by fellow coaches and former players and their families. Texas Tech may be eager to move on, to end the Gillispie era, to get out of an ugly public relations disaster as swiftly and painlessly as possible. But would that be fair? Given the last three days of testimonials on his behalf, Tech can no longer hurry to its this decision. It needs to investigate of its own volition -- Hocutt and his staff are deeply engaged in this process by now -- and see which charges stand up to scrutiny, and which fall away.

Because on one side is the portrait of a coaching monster, a guy who would do anything to win, who can't get along with players, who is willing to injure them in the pursuit of some higher toughness ideal. On the other side is a man who brought a former player's father to tears with a charitable gesture, a man who has received support from former players including those on the disaster that was the 2011-12 Red Raiders. What do you do with such contrasting accounts?

The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. It is now up to Hocutt and his staff to decide how far to either side that truth lies, and what it means for Gillispie's perilous future in the coaching profession.

Self speaks out on Gillispie troubles

September, 9, 2012
9/09/12
1:30
PM ET
Kansas coach Bill Self has chosen to remain silent about the controversy surrounding friend and former assistant Billy Gillispie at Texas Tech.

Until now.

Self contacted me after reading an ESPN.com article published Saturday afternoon in which a handful of Gillispie's former players came to his defense. Included among Gillispie's supporters were NBA all-star Deron Williams, Texas A&M All-American Acie Law and former Texas Tech forward Robert Lewandowski, who played for Gillispie last season.

Gillispie's job is in jeopardy following allegations that he mistreated his Texas Tech players and committed NCAA secondary violations involving excessive practice time. He was recently released from the hospital after spending six days there, reportedly dealing with high blood pressure.

Self said he's tried unsuccessfully to contact his friend, but "from what I understand, not many people have talked to him," he added.

"I considered him to be one of my closest friends for a long time. But I haven't spoken to Billy in about a month. We still stay in contact, but not like we used to. It used to be a three or four times a week thing. He's backed off a little bit, but that's only because we play in the same league now.

Click here for more of what Self had to say about the situation.
ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil has a unique perspective on Billy Gillispie. In 2009, during Gillipsie's second year at Kentucky -- the year the Wildcats (gasp) failed to make the NCAA tournament, a failure that cost Gillispie his job -- Dana was granted an all-access pass inside the Kentucky program. The resulting story painted a picture of a program and a fan base that together had no idea how to handle the prospect of missing the NCAA tournament -- led by a guy who was in way over his head:
This is a team sinking under the albatross of scrutiny. Players sag under the heavy burden of a state's expectations and a program's glorious history books. In a situation desperate for a practical joke or a silly movie to cut the tension, there is nothing but the seriousness of basketball.

It is the coach's way of operating. A self-described basketball junkie who says he has "no balance" in his life, Billy Gillispie isn't one for small talk or normal social interaction. He sits alone on the team charter plane and bus, reading, sleeping or looking out the window. He is all basketball business, a man who ends each pregame session and film session with a "Let's go to work.''

[...] There is no doubt that Gillispie is a tough nut to crack. He says he has a small circle that he keeps close, rarely letting outsiders in. It's probably not a bad way to be when your every muscle tick is dissected. But while Gillispie's need for privacy is understandable, his standoffish behavior is hard to comprehend. He has been brusque with the media, both local and national, and his rude dismissals of ESPN sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards have been a hot topic in Kentucky.

He is not one to engage in small talk with anyone, brushing into and out of meeting rooms, locker rooms and breakfast rooms with a purposeful stride. This behavior probably didn't register much at his previous head coaching stops in El Paso (UTEP) and College Station (Texas A&M), but it jumps off the Richter scale in a Kentucky mired in a basketball debacle.

At the time, from the outside, it was hard not to look at Gillispie's faults -- the workaholism, the unforgiving intensity, the awkward interactions with players, the inability to understand the UK fan base -- as flaws magnified as much by the environment as by Gillispie himself. Things had gone south in the nation's most highly scrutinized basketball program; of course Gillispie looked like he was losing his team. But weren't those same flaws the reason Gillispie was so successful early in his career? Wasn't Kentucky a different beast? If he couldn't turn the thing around, you could at least come away thinking the fit was the problem, that Gillispie could return to coaching at a less scrutinized place and still rekindle his old success. Texas Tech certainly fit the bill.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems clear Gillispie did as much as anyone -- if not much, much more -- to hasten his downfall. It was more than him just not "getting it." It wasn't Kentucky; it was him. And now Texas Tech finds itself in this mess.

On Thursday, Dana revisited her time with Gillispie for a retrospective feature, and needless to say, our intrepid reporter was hardly flabbergasted by the revelations surrounding Gillispie's treatment of players at Texas Tech. From her commentary:
The Gillispie I met was standoffish to the point of being rude, a taciturn drill sergeant with his players who lacked the ability or interest to engage personally with them even for a minute.

I left fully expecting Kentucky to fire him after the NIT -- which happened -- but convinced it wouldn't be because of his below-UK win-loss standards; it would be because of his insular and abrasive personality.

He was coaching in the biggest bubble in college basketball, yet bristled at everyday interaction. He treated people associated with the program with either disinterest or disdain, disenfranchised the fan base that once greeted him with open arms, disenchanted the athletic director that hired him and most important of all, lost his team.

[...] I have logged more than a few hundred hours around basketball coaches and their players. News flash: Coaches aren't always nice. They can be downright mean when they have to be.

But always there is a place for levity -- at the end of a practice, on the bus, the plane, somewhere the other side of the relationship is apparent. There is banter and fun.

Not at Kentucky. In four days, I never saw Gillispie have anything other than basketball-related interactions with his players.

Gillispie ended every conversation, broke every huddle, by saying, "Let's go to work," and that is exactly what it was -- joyless work for the players. In a situation desperate to break the oppression of misery and the stress of losing, there was not even the briefest of respites.
This week, Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie was hospitalized for high blood pressure. As far as I can tell, this is a gift of circumstance: It’s the only thing standing between Billy Clyde and the unemployment line.

I would never make light of someone’s health issues, no matter how serious, and I’m the last person to jump on a “fire this guy!” bandwagon -- whether professionally or recreationally, in college hoops or anything else. (OK, OK: Vinny Del Negro.) To be absolutely clear: No one should be rooting for Gillispie to lose his job. That's not cool.

[+] EnlargeBilly Gillispie
Shane Keyser/Getty ImagesIt's safe to say that Billy Gillispie's days of coaching at Texas Tech appear to be numbered.
It’s just that, well, what else can Texas Tech do? Now that Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt has heard what he’s heard -- a mass mutiny and ongoing defections by current players, a piling on by former players about his abusive coaching style and, worst of all, a habit of extending practice times long past their NCAA-required maximums that Hocutt has already reprimanded Gillispie for once before.

Throw in all the things we’ve long known about Gillispie -- his background of alcohol issues, his difficulties getting along with players and support staff, his seeming inability to enjoy the game of basketball rather than shove its importance down his players’ throats -- and it’s very difficult to see exactly how Gillispie can talk himself into keeping his job this time. I just don’t see the way forward. Do you?

That’s why Andy Katz asked a handful of coaches and staffing reps this exact question: What does Gillispie have to do to keep himself employed by the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The answers came with a lot of ifs and buts and “well, he has to air out some differences,” and various other communication sessions -- with players, with the administration -- that would require Gillispie to give a full-throated argument for what he did was wrong, and why he plans to change it in the future.

But as Andy wrote:
When Gillispie committed a secondary violation concerning practice time this past winter, he was “issued a reprimand that there would be no tolerance for further disregard for rules,” Hocutt said.

That seems pretty cut and dry, right? But once Gillispie is out of the hospital and can give his side of the story, can he possibly save his job?

“That’s a hard question to answer,” said Eddie Fogler, a former head coach at South Carolina and Vanderbilt, who now heads search firms for schools looking for head coaches.

As Fogler pointed out, Gillispie has had similar problems in his past, so it will be hard to create a defense. The recurring theme hurts him.

But if he does get a second chance in Lubbock, then Gillispie “will have to change how you go about your business if you can, if you want to,” Fogler said. “But that change doesn’t come easy for a coach who’s been around as long as Billy’s been doing it.”

If Texas Tech wants to bring Gillispie back, it will have to convince itself that this is -- all of a sudden, after a litany of warnings that went ignored -- a changed man. I just don’t see how they could come to that conclusion. And if they don’t, they have to fire him. It really is just that simple.

SPONSORED HEADLINES