Fired after only two seasons, Billy Gillispie never had a chance at Kentucky.
The UK faithful are rarely satisfied. Anything less than multiple Final Four appearances and an occasional championship means Wildcat followers will begin looking for the next head coach.
Gillispie’s short tenure produced “only” 40 victories. Not nearly enough. It did not help that he had some of the most embarrassing losses in school history mixed into the 67 games he coached there.
Still, the hard fact is that UK basketball is no longer assured top status. UK fans never warmed up to previous head coach Tubby Smith either and he won an NCAA title.
Reality is a hard thing to adjust to in Lexington. For now, at least Kentucky isn’t getting the best players. Basketball talent is spread out all over the country these days, no longer concentrated on Kentucky Bluegrass. But that has not yet sunk in on the victory-spoiled fans in one the most basketball crazy states in the nation.
Anyway, back to Gillispie. Do I feel sorry for him? In a word, no. He was handsomely paid. He knew full well what he was getting into. When you sign up to coach Kentucky, you’d better win, right away. Gillispie didn’t, now he must go. I predict that once he gets over the feeling of rejection he will feel relieved. Just like Tubby Smith now does at the University of Minnesota.
Kentucky is a pressure-cooker, and most smart coaches will avoid it. The expectations are unreasonably high and the support is just not there for anyone. At a news conference, UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart said Gillispie was not “the right fit” as coach and added coldly that University of Kentucky fans, "deserve a coach that understands that this is not just another coaching job."
Good luck to the next coach at Kentucky, whoever he will be. He will need it. Because the brutal fact is, winning at the highest level is no longer guaranteed at UK. And the sooner everyone understands that the better off the state, the university, and its unrealistic fans will be. Until then, any coach going to Kentucky will never get a fair shake.