UK Basketball: Straddlin' the Fence


The opinions are strongly held and varying -- Billy Gillispie is the man for the job; he just needs more time, or Billy Gillispie is the man that needs to find a real estate agent to dump his 12,000-square foot fortress of loneliness, and right quick. 

Both sides of the aisle have valid, cogent points; they both can claim reasonable, and persuasive arguments; most importantly though, they both possess righteous passion regarding Kentucky basketball.

The "Billy Must Go" Set

The most common argument from this side of the debate is that (1) Gillispie is too hard-headed for his own good, (2) too in love with his own philosophies, and (3) too out of touch with what it takes to win at a high level, i.e. he's in over his head. (4) They've grown tired of players performing effectively one game, only to be relegated to the pine the next. (5) They're distressed by the Bobby Knight-treatment of sports reporters, (6) and many are quickly becoming fed-up with Gillispie's classless attitude toward the "Voice of the Wildcats," Tom Leach. 


(7) After watching nearly two complete seasons worth of head-scratching moves, some fans have simply grown weary, and frustrated. (8) Watching Gillispie's teams play sketchy man-to-man defense, especially when his two UK teams are/were prototypical zone defense teams, have left many Big Blue supporters feeling fatigued. (9) And it doesn't help that recently the team has played like they don't "mean it," making it harder to find fault with those who espouse that he must go.

It's not dissimilar to a prosecutor attempting to build a case that he/she is bringing to trial: If only one or two of the above indiscretions were all the anti-Billy crowd could come muster as a basis for his immediate dismissal, then their argument would be much weaker.  But considering the mountain of evidence in existence, one finds it more difficult to dismiss their points as the ravings of the Wildcat lunatic fringe.

The "Billy Must Stay" Set

What many of Gillispie's supporters will yell from the mountaintop is that (1) Billy inherited a roster more suited for the OVC, not the SEC.  Kentucky, especially recently, has been hurt by the lack of a big man to take some of the heat off of Patrick Patterson, say the Billy backers. (2) Billy's bad luck is another point of contention, that many say is not his fault: The transfer of Derrick Jasper robbed UK of a potential starting lead guard, and the loss of Alex Legion left UK with only one bona-fide outside shooting threat.

Gillispie's group will also point to (3) his revival of two bottom-feeder basketball programs, in Texas A&M and UTEP.  How could he have accomplished the near impossible by turning around those two programs if he didn't know what he was doing? (4) One of the by-products of those remarkably quick turnarounds are numerous conference Coach of the Year awards that Gillispie has collected atop his otherwise empty mantle.  It begs the question: How can a guy so respected by his peers not know what he's doing?

And finally, (5) what would firing a coach after only two years, especially when he took over a program lacking in top 20 talent, say to the currently happily employed potential Barnhart targets?  MITCH -- "I know we got rid of Billy after only two years, but some of the things he did were very disturbing.  You'll get more time."  Billy's backers say that wouldn't wash with the top-notch coaching talent that UK would be pursuing.

(6) An unintended result of an immediate banishment of Billy is the possible transfer of current UK players, leaving the roster thinner than the Olsen twins.  Also, the potential of committed players begging out of their Letters of Intent is another real possibility. (7) That would elevate UK's status as an unstable program to heights never seen before in these parts.

Says the coach's supporters, (8) Billy deserves time to get his own players in Lexington.  Every coach deserves at least four years to fill the roster with his recruits, then we'll make a judgment.  Those are the most often-heard words of prudence coming from the Billy must stay crowd.  And they ring true, at least to me.


What we must remember 'Cat fans, is that both Parties, err, sides of the debate, are right.  That is a rarity indeed.  I find myself swinging from side to side, unsure which course of action is the best for the program ...

But in the end, what I think, what you think, and what former players think, is moot.  The only two opinions that matter are those of UK President Lee Todd, and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart.  They are both paid a handsome sum to ensure the integrity of the University, and it's athletic department, remain strong.  Also, they are both charged with ensuring that the basketball coach is living up to the standards set by his predecessors.

At the same time, they must not de-stabilize the "Roman Empire" of college basketball by making indiscriminate decisions based on incomplete data.  And with college basketball's preeminent program teetering on the verge of irrelevance, careful consideration must be given before action is taken.

Where's the D?

For those looking to place blame for UK's 3-7 record over the last 10 games, look no further -- In UK's first 20 games they gave up an average of 63.5 points per game, 36.4% field goal shooting, and 32.9% three-point shooting.  If one takes out the aberration that was the VMI game, their first 20 games defensive numbers look like this: 60.9 points per game, 35.6% field goal shooting, and 31.8% three-point shooting.

In their last 10 games, the numbers look decidedly un-Kentucky-like: 73.2 points per game, 43.1% field goal shooting, and 38.0% three-point shooting.

I don't know why Alex Legion transferred.  I realize he reportedly has an aversion to playing defense, but he would fit right in with this group of defense-less 'Cats.

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!

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