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March 27, 2009
UK pulls the plug on the Gillispie era
Billy Gillispie's time at Kentucky has run out.
The UK basketball coach will not return to Lexington for the 2009-10 season after a tumultuous two-year tenure. The UK athletics department has announced a press conference scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the change.
The latest development will put an end to what has become an increasingly unworkable situation over the past few months, with the black-and-white reality of wins and losses taking a back seat to the administration's concerns for student-athletes, and a desire that the basketball players' experience be rewarding. There has been growing concern over Gillispie's treatment of those involved with the program and understanding of the scope of the job as a whole.
It has not been a smooth ride for the Texas native since he arrived on campus in April of 2007. Upon his hiring there were questions about legal issues, an odd refusal to sign a formal contract and his readiness to handle a job the magnitude of Kentucky. A loss to Gardner-Webb in his second game as head coach, puzzling substitution patterns and an aversion to making adjustments fueled criticism as the Cats got off to a slow start in his first year. UK rallied to finish 12-4 in the Southeastern Conference and make the NCAA Tournament last season and entered this year's campaign with high expectations.
Those expectations proved to be entirely too much for Gillispie and his team to handle.
Another humbling home loss to a no-name program - VMI - set the stage for more criticism of Gillispie, but the Cats rallied to win 16 of their next 19 games and spur talk of perhaps going undefeated in conference play. All of that came crumbling down as the Cats lost nine of their final 13 games and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1991-92 season.
As the defeats mounted, concern over Gillispie's treatment of players and department personnel mounted. The coach had two high-profile run-ins with ESPN sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards during games and later told reporters at the SEC Tournament he did not consider being a public figure part of his job description as head coach.
Gillispie arrived at UK with four conference Coach of the Year awards and a reputation as a hard-nosed grinder who overachieved. He leaves with a two-year record of 40-27 record, no NCAA Tournament wins and without an SEC title of any kind.
Matt May is the basketball beat reporter for The Cats' Pause. If you have questions or comments about the Cats e-mail him here.