Unbelievably, even to many Kentucky fans, head basketball coach Billy Gillispie is on his way out of Lexington. In spite of what some may say, the parting of ways is based upon far more than simple wins and losses.
While a coach with Final Fours and consistent championship contention can afford to be brash and abrasive, an unproven one cannot. This is especially the case when the job is Kentucky coach.
The storied program requires excellence on the court, as well as the recruiting trail. But unlike many schools, UK demands an ambassador off the gym floor, as well.
Kentucky's coach is arguably more famous than the governor. Polls consistently show that he is easily more revered and more well-known than the state's top public servant.
In fact, it has been said more than once that even Presidential candidates can me made or broken in the bluegrass by the endorsement, or lack of, from the man who holds the lofty coaching job.
Billy Clyde Gillispie didn't seek that kind of attention. He certainly wasn't up to the task. For multiple off court reasons, compounded by those that were on the court, the position is apparently vacant again.
With that in mind, I thought it might be nice to look at the probable candidates to take his place. In doing so, one thing appears to stand out. This is going to be easy.
The new coach will be one of the following five, and you my friend, can write it down.
Beginning with the least likely person to be holding the UK coaching job two weeks from now should start with the most obvious, yet perhaps the most surprising.
That man is Billy Gillispie himself.
Yes, Gillispie is likely on his way out and where there's smoke, there's fire, but until the man is actually let go, you have to concede the chances, however slim, that he may be able to fight for and convince his superiors to allow him to keep the position.
This scenario certainly appears to be the least likely of five that are possible, but it is what it is.
Fourth on the list is actually a group of coaches that all seem to be as likely, yet unlikely as one another.
Kentucky wants a proven coach and would love nothing more than to sign a proven winner, someone with NCAA AND Final Four experience. Money is no more an obstacle to Kentucky basketball than it is to Alabama football when a top rate coach can be signed.
In that vein, UK will make no secret of it's lust for Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Villanova's Jay Wright, and Texas' Rick Barnes.
All three coaches have spurned other advances and there is no reason to believe they would be anymore interested this time around. However, they're certainly within the realm of possibility, especially if UK's first choice turns down the job.
Speaking of UK's first choice. He comes in at No. 3. Yes, No. 1 is No. 3. Donovan is certainly Kentucky's No. 1 candidate and the job is his to turn down, but he isn't the most likely man to actually be holding the job soon.
He's No. 3 on this top five of most likely candidates, because he has turned down the cats previously and could easily choose to do so again. There are many pros and cons with the Kentucky job for Donovan.
There are fewer cons with his current position in sunny Florida.
There is little doubt that Memphis' John Calipari has the kind of personality to thrive in the PR limelights that constantly shine on Kentucky basketball.
Always ready to give Pitino a run for his money and never lacking in McDonald's All-Americans or deep NCAA Tournament runs, Coach Cal is said to have been interested in the UK coaching job two years ago, when Tubby left town. Some who know him say that he's still interested.
Kentucky didn't seriously consider him during it's last search, mainly due to Calipari's run-in with the NCAA at UMASS, as well as unsubstantiated rumors that currently surround him in Memphis.
Kentucky was stung deeply by NCAA sanctions during the Eddie Sutton era and will avoid that road again at all costs.
However, it's possible that UK and it's compliance staff may be warming to Calipari and winning ways. Coach Cal is a VERY REAL possibility. In fact, he's a very, VERY close second.
Above, as a player in 1994, current Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford was (and still is) universally loved by all in the bluegrass state.
Ford wasn't deemed to be seasoned enough when the job came open two years ago. Since then, he's moved into the Big 12 and taken the Cowboys to the NCAA Tourney, continuing his string of success in coaching that began at Eastern Kentucky and Massachusetts.
Ford isn't Kentucky's first choice. They still want a proven winner, who will also be the right fit for the other integral aspects of the job.
Ford will easily move to the top of Kentucky's list if Donovan does as expected and turns the job down.
My thought, in fact, my guarantee, is that I've given you the name of Kentucky's next coach within these five slides. In the order of least to most probable, I give you only my estimation.
The conclusion though, you can write down. Regardless of the outcome, one can only hope that this is the last time Kentucky basketball and coaching vacancy are spoken in the same sentence for several years to come.