Ex-UK skipper Gilispie sees Red
Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2011 7:59 pm
By: By BETSY BLANEY, Associated Press
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — The Billy Gillispie era has begun at Texas Tech.
The school introduced its new basketball coach Wednesday and Gillispie said it feels like he has come home. The 51-year-old Abilene native is 140-85 in seven seasons as a Division I coach, and he previously led UTEP and Texas A&M to remarkable turnarounds.
Gillispie flashed the school’s “Guns Up” sign before stepping to the podium and telling a crowd of about 800 at the basketball arena that he can’t guarantee every game will be a win.
“I can guarantee there is not anybody that’s going to come into this place and play harder than us or better together than us,” Gillispie said. “I’ll guarantee that to happen.”
Gillispie replaces Pat Knight, who was fired March 7.
Gillispie returns to coaching after two seasons away. Kentucky fired him in 2009 after the Wildcats went 40-27 in his two seasons and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 17 years.
His introduction came 10 years ago to the day that Bob Knight first met with Texas Tech students and media in 2001. Bob Knight resigned in February 2008 with 902 wins and youngest son Pat took over.
Gillispie and Tech have agreed to a five-year contract, but details were not released. Athletic director Kirby Hocutt told fans Gillispie’s basketball resume shows what he can do.
“He’s been a winner everywhere that he’s been, and perhaps, perhaps no one in the history of this great game of college basketball has turned around basketball programs quicker than he has in his past,” Hocutt said.
In 2004, Gillispie led UTEP to its first NCAA appearance since 1992 after it went 24-8 and won a share of the Western Athletic Conference title. At A&M, he led the Aggies to three consecutive 20-win seasons and Gillispie was chosen Big 12 coach of the year in 2005.
Gillispie, known as an adept recruiter, said he’s got his eyes on height after meeting with players Tuesday evening.
“We’re going to get the tallest, best guys that we can,” he said. “I want some guys over there that can touch the rim without jumping.”
Gillispie arrives with some baggage. Five months after he was fired by Kentucky, he was arrested for drunken driving. In November 2009, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, accepting a plea bargain that included fines and court costs of more than $1,000, a 30-day suspension of his driver’s license and an agreement to complete an Alcohol Drivers Education Program.
Gillispie on Wednesday, as he did the day of his plea deal, called the incident a “mistake.”
“You try to learn from them and not repeat them,” he said. “But those things don’t determine us. It’s what we do in the future that does.”
The arrest was at least the third time Gillispie has been accused of driving under the influence. In 1999, Gillispie was arrested on two charges: driving while intoxicated and improper use of a lane in Tulsa, Okla., where he was an assistant coach under Bill Self, now the Kansas coach.
He eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless driving. The other charges were dismissed.
In 2003, in his first year as head coach at UTEP, he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. The charges eventually were dismissed after a specially appointed prosecutor decided that there was not enough evidence to suggest that Gillispie was drunk.
On Wednesday, Gillispie said he missed coaching “dearly,” though the timing of being out of coaching was ideal given his mother’s cancer diagnosis. She passed away in January.
“I’ve had some time to take a deep breath,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade that time off for anything because of my mother.”
Usually, Gillispie said in his remarks to the crowd, there is a “mess” when there is a coaching change.
“There are so many things here that are not a mess,” he said, adding that Pat Knight put “foundation stones” in place.
“There are so many things here that have been successful and will continue to be successful, so I’m grateful to step into a situation like that,” he said.
What hasn’t gone so well at Texas Tech lately is attendance. Gillispie challenged those attending his introduction to change that.
“There’s not going to be any empty seats,” he said. “We’re going to fill this place up and get all the fans out there that we can. We’re going to get all the students out there.”