Well, the axe has presumably fallen by now, as it's expected that University of Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie will not be back next season. The official announcement should come today during UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart's press conference.
Since taking over for Tubby Smith, Gillispie has guided the Wildcats to a 40-27 record, not exactly up to Kentucky basketball fans' ridiculously high standards. Factor in two embarrassing losses to VMI and Gardner-Webb (who?), and the writing was on the wall.
Rumors are running rampant as to why Gillispie was let go after only two seasons, including his treatment of local media (especially female reporters), a personality conflict with Barnhart, and that he didn't bleed Kentucky blue. True or not, these wouldn't even be a blip on the radar had Gillispie delivered what UK fans so desperately crave—wins, tournament appearances, and championships.
The UK basketball coaching job is still regarded as one of the elite in college basketball, despite being surpassed by programs such as UConn, North Carolina and Duke. The University of Kentucky basketball program is still in the same league as the New York Yankees, Montreal Canadians, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Michigan Wolverines (football).
However, the pressures of coaching a program like UK's can destroy the finest of coaches. Kentuckians are passionate about their college basketball, seeing that the state itself has zero professional teams. So whoever ends up coaching the Wildcats next season needs to be personable, strong-willed, able to accept and ignore criticism, understand the passion of UK's fan base, and, most of all, win. Just win.
Names have been mentioned as possible replacements for the now-departed Gillispie. Florida's Billy Donovan, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, and Memphis' John Calipari are the three biggest names linked to the job. Oklahoma State's Travis Ford's name has also come up in discussions.
Clearly, any of the big three mentioned above would be an instant upgrade as head coach.