The University of Kentucky has announced Billy Gillispie will be the 21st men's basketball coach in the school's history. Gillispie departs Texas A&M after three years at the helm of what became one of college basketball's fastest-rising programs.
It was just one week ago that the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved a new contract for the Aggie head coach, making him one of the highest paid coaches in the Big 12.
“I am thankful for the commitment Texas A&M continues to make to allow us to do the things we need to do, to achieve our ultimate goal—winning a national championship,” Gillispie said last week. “The commitment has been there since day one and continues to grow stronger still. While it’s embarrassing to me to be compensated so well to perform my passion for a school I love, I am sincerely appreciative of the efforts of Bill Byrne, our university administration, the board of regents and everyone associated with Texas A&M for their personal support they continue to show. We will continue to do our best to try and make the Texas A&M family proud.”
Gillispie wasn't Kentucky's first choice to replace Tubby Smith, but moved to the top of UK's list after Florida Coach Billy Donovan announced he was staying in Gainsville to coach the Gators on Thursday and Texas' Rick Barnes said he wasn't interested in leaving the Longhorns.
Texas A&M seemed to be a perfect fit for Gillispie. He grew up in Graford, a small west Texas town, went to school at Texas State University where he a graduate assistant with the Bobcats and later coached high school basketball.
Gillispie began his division one college coaching career as a member of Harry Miller's staff at Baylor and then joined his good friend Bill Self at both Tulsa and Illinois.
Billy Clyde, as he is referred to by his friends, took his first head coaching job at University of Texas-El Paso 5 years ago and won only 6 games with the Miners that first season.
In Year Two, the Miners posted a 24 and 8 record earning a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Over a plate of fish tacos, Texas A&M Director of Athletics Bill Byrne was able to lure Gillispie away from a UTEP program that was on the rise and take over an A&M team that was 0-16 in the Big 12 in 2004.
Gillispie posted the school's first 20-win season since the days of Shelby Metcalf in 2005 and received a invitation to play in the NIT, the Aggies first post season appearance in a decade.
Gillispie certainly left his mark on the A&M program in just 3 years:
- Posting 3 consecutive 20 win seasons
-Three consecutive post season appearances (2005-NIT, 2006, 07-NCAA)
-The programs first "Sweet 16" appearance since 1980
-A #6 national ranking in the Associated Press poll this season (the highest in program history)
-A consensus All American in Acie Law
-A 27 win season in 2006-07 the most victories in school history
Gillispie was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2007 and was a finalist for NCAA National Coach of the Year. His overall record at Texas A&M is 70-26 in three years. Including two years at UTEP, he has an overall record of 100-58 on the collegiate level the last five years.
Gillispie was the first Texas native to coach the Aggies since the mid-1930s and his last three recruiting classes have been ranked among the Top 15 nationally. He is the only coach in college basketball history to coach the nation’s most improved team in consecutive seasons (2003-04 at UTEP and 2004-05 at Texas A&M.)
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