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The Empire Strikes Back!

Four games into the season, and the nattering nabobs of negativity have begun, and not just in the local media.

You may recall this post of mine from back in the summer, wondering how long it would take for the media to begin to turn on Billy Gillispie.  Turns out, the answer is "5 months."

We commented earlier on the "Gillispie vs. UK" conflict that is being set up by the media with the help of Jerry Tipton's recent article.  Now, I'm not ragging on Tipton -- he did what reporters are supposed to do, trying to dig up the reason why Gillipie and UK hadn't finalized the contract by now.  As I said before, it isn't that unusual for a coach to go a long time without finalizing a deal, but it isn't altogether irrelevant, either.

Dick "Hoops" Weiss, whom I deeply respect and who's writing I truly enjoy, apparently is just catching up with this story.  Dick writes mostly about New York sports, so no particular reason why he should be in the loop about UK and Gillispie, but apparently, a friend of his sent him a clipping from Tipton's article and he writes about it today at his New York Daily News blog.  Nothing particularly surprising about this, and as usual, Dick has his facts straight.  "Hoops'" article isn't what I'm writing about, though.

What I am writing about is an article by Seth Davis at containing this blurb, which reads in relevant part:

* I'm not saying it's a huge deal that Billy Gillispie hasn't signed a contract yet at Kentucky. But the revelation that he hasn't sure won't do anything to quell the whispers that Gillispie and athletic director Mitch Barnhart aren't getting along.
Don't you just know when people predicate a comment with "I'm not saying this is important, but ...", you are about to be sold a bill of goods the writer thinks is really, really important?  The Damning But strikes again.

This is just the sort of rumormongering that really ticks me off, and such rumors beg many more questions than they answer.   What gives these particular rumors sufficient heft to pass along on a national publication's website?  In what respect are Gillispie and Barnhart at odds?  Is it just over the provisions of the contract, or is there some other reason?  Seth apparently wants to leave us with the impression that something more than slightly sub-par basketball is wrong in Kentucky.  Why?

I have become aware of a bit of an email campaign against Gillispie that has reached Louisville.  It appears to be directed at individuals at middle and upper management levels in several workplaces around town that I work with.  These are people, who are often UK season ticket holders, usually fairly well-heeled.  Apparently, these emails contain just the sort of rumor Seth Davis passes along, along with other predictable stuff designed to impugn Gillispie's character, i.e. adult beverages, carousing, etc.  I won't repeat them.  You get the idea, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of you have received similar.

Absent facts, I can't make any kind of conclusion about who is stirring this pot and why.  Perhaps it is just the natural resistance to change, perhaps it's just a bunch of kids with too much time on their hands, perhaps some Smith supporters feel like he got a raw deal and are lashing out, or maybe these "rumors" contain more truth than we know.  The fact is, we don't know.  Given that, why is Seth Davis reporting rumors without any whiff of substantiation?  I thought that was purely the province of ... you know, blogs and message boards and suchlike.  Aren't journalists supposed to have "ethics" about these things?

I predict the "rumors" will get worse and worse with every big loss (I know, I know, I'm a regular Great Karnak).  People who have no other agenda than nitpicking at whoever is the coach will join in, and the rumor-mongers will be emboldened.  This is a fact of life.  I get more rumors passed to me than most, and I simply refuse to pass them on.  But when they start to appear in the media under the rubric of "credibility" that has been granted them by the public, they require comment.  In this case, scorn.

Hat tip:  Aaron's UK Basketball Blog