Today the University of Kentucky athletic department and the men’s basketball head coach, Billy Gillispie separated ways. The separation was announced at a 4:30pm press conference after several days of speculation. You can follow the Lexington Herald-Leader’s coverage here!
There are numerous reasons why they needed to part ways but they can all be summed up with the fact that the program was going in a direction that Kentucky did not like and Gillispie was not the right coach to change that direction. Tubby Smith drilled a hole in the bottom of the ship and started it sinking. Gillispie was brought in to try and plug that hole, but the ship was still sinking. Now Kentucky needs to find someone who can save things.
But who will that be?
Florida’s head coach, Billy Donovan has been mentioned. He has built a strong program at Florida, a football school. Donovan is a Rick Pitino protege having been his assistant at Kentucky during their magical run. Is he interested? Would he fit in at Kentucky? Even with his National Championship, he is high profile enough? Can he be consistent? Florida didn’t make it into the NCAA tournament this year. That folks is a huge red flag. If Billy G’s failure to make the dance got him chased out of town, why do we think Billy D will be any different? He does come with strong UK cred having been a well respected assistant.
On the subject of assistants, does Kentucky court Leonard Hamilton, the current head coach at Florida State? He was Joe B. Hall‘s long time assistant at Kentucky? He’s partially responsible for one of the banner’s hanging at Rupp Arena with the 1978 National Championship. On the other hand, 1979 was an NIT year (though in fairness, it was a 40 team field, not a 64 team field, so it was harder to get to the big dance. Again, Hamilton doesn’t have the name power to bring in the McDonald’s All American’s needed to be a consistent Top-10 team. Also a major Geek negative, Hamilton’s Wikipedia page is abysmal. If a coach doesn’t have a decent Wikipedia page, how good can he be anyway?
How about convincing Rick Pitino to come home? Joanne will never go for it. So he would have to commute the one hour drive from Louisville to Lexington. I’m sure a private helicopter would be ponied up to make it happen. Arizona is reported to be chasing Pitino, but I doubt Joanne would put up with Tuscon if she couldn’t handle Lexington. But with Pitino just getting Louisville back to national prominence (sure Louisville wants to be a Football School!!!) he would be a fool to win and run.
Pat Riley? He could do the job, but has no interest in college basketball. He’s too used to life in Hollywood East, er. Miami. Lexington would be too simple for him.
Coach K? He would be met at the border with loaded shotguns. Roy Williams? He is the new evil overload of college basketball (though you have to respect him. He is a very good guy to be the arch-devil…..) but he is so happy at UNC, he wouldn’t give it consideration.
Jim Calhoun? The NCAA is looking at his program at UCONN for rules violations. Kentucky can’t risk that route.
John Calipari? He certainly puts together winning teams. He’s yet to win the big one, and in each of his coaching stints, he’s needed two to three years to get the teams to the NCAA. He has the most wins behind Roy Williams among active coaches. His two college jobs lasted 8 and 9 years respectfully, so based on his history, he may be ready to move on.
Bring Bobby Knight out of retirement?
Who ever it is, it can’t be someone who has built a low pressure school to making the dance. He has to be a proven winner. Someone who consistently, year-in and year-out produces a champion. It has to be someone who can thrive under the extreme pressure that is the Kentucky Basketball faithful yet not mind living in a small farm town. Kentucky doesn’t need a builder, it needs a star and those are few and far in between.
What do you think? Chime in by posting a comment on the blog.