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Billy Gillispie ( 1959 - )  Category ( Athletes ) [suggest a correction]
 

Billy GillispieBilly Gillispie was born to be a basketball coach.

A point guard on his high school team in tiny Graford,TX, Gillispie started helping out his coach at Sam Houston State College, Bob Derryberry, while he was still a player. When Derryberry was hired as the coach at Southwest Texas, Gillispie went with him.

That started a career that was all-consuming for Gillispie, who became famous for working 15 hour days, seven days a week, and tirelessly criss-crossing the country in search of talent.

He honed his skills at two high school stops - Copperas Cove near Austin and Ellison High School in Killeen, then became an assistant at Baylor. His first recruiting class under head coach Harry Miller was ranked as high as sixth in the nation.

From Baylor, Gillispie latched onto the coattails of Bill Self, assisting Self first at Tulsa and then at the university of Illinois, where his recruiting laid the groundwork for a team that ultimately reached the national finals.

Finally, in 2003, Gillispie got the opportunity to run his own program, inheriting the wreckage of a 6-24 season at the University of Texas-El Paso. He immediately began recruiting players - mostly from junior colleges - whom he felt could help immediately.

And it worked. The 2003-04 Miners served notice of a changed atmosphere by upsetting the Harlem Globetrotters, 89-88, in an exhibition game. UTEP then went 24-8, won the Western Athletic Conference, and was invited to the NCAA tournament.

A year later, Gillispie had already taken his next step up, succeeding the fired Melvin Watkins at Texas A&M. The Aggies had been 7-21 in '03'-'04, but Gillispie pulled a 21-10 season out of his hat, earning him serious consideration for national Coach of the Year honors. A year later, the Aggies went to the Sweet 16 before losing by a point to Memphis.

In 2008, Gillispie reached what he considered the pinnacle of college coaching, the head position at the University of Kentucky. There, for the first time, he encountered expectations that were even higher than his own. Although the Wildcats finished 22-14 - a good season at 99 percent of basketball-playing colleges - he was fired.

That firing, according to the university, was not because of the 14 losses and failure to reached the NCAA tournament, but because of an "incompatability" exhibited by Gillispie's failure to sign a contract. Gillipsie ultimately sued the university for $6 million, a case that is still pending.

On Aug. 27, 2009, the 49-year-old Gillispie was charged with DUI in Lawrenceburg, KY. That case is also pending.


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