Well, we have now heard Gillispie's side of the story, and it is pretty much what we would expect. I think the Big Blue Nation universally agrees that Gillispie did a good job, perhaps even the best job of his career, handling that media availability. He was no-nonsense, was as blunt and honest as he could possibly be consistent with protecting his legal position, and found a way to say nice things about everyone, even people with whom I feel confident he has had more than one or two harsh thoughts in connection with over the last few days.
I was struck by the sense of ease that Gillispie had, in marked contrast to the two sallow-faced men who addressed the media yesterday. To be fair, Gillispie's job was much, much easier than Dr. Todd and Mitch Barnhart's. People are, have, and will continue to debate the contrast, who was more correct, etc. At the end of the day, it is little more than fodder for discussion. The reality is, neither Barnhart nor Dr. Todd looked bad enough to jeopardize their positions by the fact of the contrast. The run-up to this drama was and should certainly be an issue, but my sense is that it will pass.
There is an obvious, and understandable desire among the Big Blue Nation to move on and begin the healing process. Yes, there is anger, much of it directed at the Athletics Director, and in this writer's humble opinion, it is well deserved. Barnhart has two big strikes against him -- the handling of Tubby Smith's last days, and this ... debacle. I think he gets one more, and he probably should. For good or ill, this coaching search represents a huge opportunity for Barnhart to rehabilitate his image, or provide an opportunity for him to begin polishing up his résumé.
It is clear that UK and Gillispie have differing views on the contract issue. I am not going to offer an opinion on that, it is meaningless. I will say that a lawsuit will resurrect this whole firing issue and likely eclipse the coaching search, so I hope for the sake of UK that the parties can quickly reach an acceptable agreement and avoid the media circus litigation would produce. Let us all hope that all parties can enter into a good faith negotiation and reach an agreement that will enable UK and Coach Gillispie to move on promptly and professionally.
I have decided that it is not productive to continue to beat up on the administration for their poor handling of this affair. Gillispie certainly gets some of the blame for failing to create a working relationship with his AD, something that every successful coach absolutely must do. Whether it is more the fault of Barnhart or Gillispie is not something we can determine, and anyway, it is not a productive exercise. So at this point, we are moving on to the coaching search.
It is my considered opinion that UK needs a high-profile coach. We tried a young fire-breather, and I think we can all agree that Gillispie's lack of major college experience was a factor in creating this toxic situation. I truly hope that our administration learns this lesson well, and moves on to a mature coach with a strong résumé and track record of success. He doesn't have to have a national championship, but it needs to be a man of stature in the college ranks, or someone with NBA experience.
Everybody has put forth the list of usual suspects, so I will also just in case anybody hasn't seen them:
Note 1: I will not discuss what these people have said in the media. In my opinion, it has no relevance yet.
Note 2: These are my tiers, not the administration's. Also, the order I put them in means nothing.
- Billy Donovan of Florida
- Rick Pitino of Louisville
- Tom Izzo of Michigan State
- John Calipari of Memphis
- Rick Barnes of Texas
- Thad Matta of Ohio State
- Jay Wright of Villanova (hat tip: tenken)
- Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh
- Sean Miller of Xavier
- Jeff Capel of Oklahoma
- Mike Anderson of Missouri
- Travis Ford of Oklahoma State
- John Pelphrey of Arkansas
- Darrin Horn of South Carolina
Others I think should be considered for Tier I or II:
- Rick Stansbury, Mississippi State
- Reggie Theus, formerly of the Sacramento Kings
- Eddie Jordan, formerly of the Washington Wizards
That's where I see us. There are probably some other good names out there I haven't thought of yet, as well. I encourage Mitch Barnhart to take his time and get this one right. We all want a coach fast, of course, but I think we need to really evaluate each candidate to be sure we don't wind up back here again two or three years from now.