Billy Gillispie headed to Mayo Clinic

Updated: September 12, 2012, 9:58 AM ET
By Jason King | ESPN.com

Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie, in a text message to The Associated Press late Tuesday, said he would be treated for high blood pressure "amongst other things," at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Gillispie had hoped to admit himself last week, a source told ESPN.com, but Gillispie had to wait for a spot to become available at the prestigious medical facility.

Although it's unclear how long Gillispie will be at Mayo, the source said Gillispie fully intends to coach the Red Raiders this season.

"Coach Gillispie is both a great coach and a great man who truly cares about helping young men achieve their dreams and true potential," the source said. "Hopefully, he'll find the answers to his medical issues quickly and be able to return to the Red Raiders and lead their basketball program back into national prominence."

Lubbock Police Sgt. Jeff Baker said Tuesday that an emergency call came from Gillispie's home around 6 p.m. Monday and that an ambulance was sent.

A spokesman for University Medical Center, where Gillispie earlier spent six days this month, said Gillispie did not go there. A spokeswoman for the other hospital in Lubbock said Gillispie was not brought there, either.

Texas Tech spokesman Blayne Beal said Gillispie told athletic director Kirby Hocutt he was going to Mayo for treatment.

News that Gillispie is voluntarily seeking medical attention comes two weeks after a handful of Texas Tech players met with compliance officials and Hocutt to voice concern about the way Gillispie was running the program. Among their complaints were Gillispie mistreating athletes and that he exceeded the NCAA limit on practice times, a secondary violation for which he'd already been reprimanded in January.

Gillispie has been told not to have any contact with the team until he and Hocutt have a face-to-face meeting, according to a report in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Hocutt said he won't make a decision about Gillispie's future until he meets with the coach to ask him about various claims.

"We hope Billy Gillispie has a full recovery, but we cannot wait forever as we have a basketball team that starts practice soon," Hocutt said in a statement. "In the meantime, Associate Head Coach Chris Walker will assume the responsibility for day-to-day operations of our men's basketball program. Coach Walker will help ensure that leadership and accountability will be in place for our student-athletes, assistant coaches and staff.

"We have been seeking a swift resolution to this issue from the very beginning. We remain committed to communicating with Billy face-to-face regarding the issues relating to the men's basketball program; however, time is of the essence."

The source said Gillispie's stress and high blood pressure are likely related to a series of events that have occurred during the past 18 months.

Gillispie's mother, Winfred, died of lung cancer in February 2011. The two were particularly close, as Gillispie lived with her and cared for her during most of the two years he spent away from coaching after being fired by Kentucky in March 2009.

Shortly after his hiring at Texas Tech in March 2011, Gillispie was among a handful of coaches who lost millions to a Ponzi scheme by former AAU basketball operator David Salinas, who committed suicide last summer. Sports Illustrated reported that Gillispie invested $2.3 million in corporate bonds.

This July, Gllispie's nephew drowned after falling off a WaveRunner. A source close to Gillispie said he took the death particularly hard, adding that he's lost a significant amount of weight in the past two months, likely because of stress.

The past two weeks certainly couldn't have helped the situation. Two former Texas Tech players who have since transferred told CBSSports.com that Gillispie made players practice when they were injured and that he once held an eight-hour workout.

The Red Raiders finished 8-23 in Gillispie's first season and 1-17 in the Big 12.

On Monday, Texas Tech forward Jordan Tolbert -- the team's leading returning scorer -- told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that he didn't want to play for Gillispie next season.

Still, for all of his detractors, a number of Gillispie's former and current players have stepped forward in recent days to voice support for the coach.

Robert Lewandowski, a starting forward for Texas Tech last season, told ESPN.com that he appreciated Gillispie's tough-love approach.

"I would play for him again," Lewandowski wrote in an email from Poland, where he now 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."

Texas Tech freshman point guard Josh Gray, the most highly touted signee of Gillispie's tenure in Lubbock thus far, sent out a supportive tweet over the weekend: "Prayers go out to my head coach ... keep (your) head up everything going to be alright." Gray also tweeted: "Shout-out to my coach I'm 110 percent behind you ..."

Gray reiterated his support for Gillispie when reached by ESPN.com on Monday afternoon but he said Texas Tech's compliance officials had instructed him not to comment.

Guard Luke Adams, a part-time starter for Texas Tech last season, tweeted: "If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great."

Former Gillispie players such as Texas A&M's Acie Law and Joseph Jones also spoke out in support of Gillispie. So did NBA star Deron Williams. Gillispie recruited Williams to Illinois when he was an assistant under Bill Self, who spoke to ESPN.com about Gillispie on Saturday.

"It's amazing to me how many experts (Texas Tech has) who know exactly what it takes to win that have never, ever won -- or at least not at a high level," Self said. "Somehow they know more about winning than a guy who has proven he can do it.

"I find most of these (accusations) hard to imagine, because I know him, and what's been reported isn't the Billy I know."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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