Well, that was fast. After two years of schizophrenic results and the nation’s most hostile interactions with sideline reporters, Billy Gillispie is no longer coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, at least according to Louisville ABC affiliate WHAS-TV.
Assuming the report is true, the move really isn’t as much of a shock as it seems. Kentucky is the kind of school that demands instant results, and the Wildcats had to eke into the NCAA Tournament last year and missed the dance altogether in ‘09. Clearly, that’s not going to cut it. Add to that two of the more embarrassing early-season results in school history, and Gillispie was already writing a pretty dismal chapter for himself in the book of Kentucky lore.
Yet that may not have been Gillispie’s true undoing. What was? The fitness freak (he was known to push for three-a-days when he could in the preseason) saw himself only as a basketball coach, not as an ambassador for the school and state. That also meant he wasn’t the most social character at booster dinners or, as is so well documented, on the sidelines en route to a halftime bitchfest at his team.
So, what does Kentucky do now? Naturally, they’ll go for the biggest name they can get their hands on. Villanova’s Jay Wright would be a great pull, and there are always other hot-handed coaches who could come into play (Xavier’s Sean Miller has to warrant consideration from a major program for what he’s done after Thad Matta skipped town, and the Wildcats could also probably make a run on Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel).
Whoever they hire, AD Mitch Barnhart had better get it right this time around. Maybe Gillispie did have to go, but the fact that Kentucky stuck with him for less than two calendar years looks bad in any evaluation, and if it happens again, the man pulling the trigger probably won’t be Barnhart.
*UPDATE*: UK’s Sports Information Department released a statement denying that Gillispie has been fired.
*UPDATE #2*: Gillispie is now officially gone.