clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

So it Begins. When Will it End?

The Billy Gillispie DUI story, that is.

After reading about fifty stories about the Gillispie hire today, I have been both pleasantly surprised and somewhat mortified.  No one, especially not someone who lives here, could be surprised that the Louisville Courier-Journal emphasizes Gillispie's DUI arrests (Note for the record:  he was not convicted of DUI in either incident) more than it does his "rags to riches" basketball story.

Surprisingly, most of the national media (here, for example) have shown considerably more restraint, emphasizing Gillispie's humble roots and astonishing rise to one of the crown jewels of college basketball.  But perhaps we just need to give them more time.

So let's get right to it.  First stop, the Courier-Journal.  The C-J has not one but two entire articles dedicated to covering Gillispie's two alcohol-related arrests.  In addition, they have their obligatory editorial which typically scolds UK for one perceived slight or the other whenever they deign to cast their baleful eye toward Lexington.  However, the editorial page shows surprising and even laudable equanimity dealing with the issue:

Unfortunately, Mr. Gillispie's tenure got off to an awkward start with the revelation that his résumé includes two DUI arrests.

Most everyone deserves a second chance, and some people merit a third. But UK has gone down the road before with a coach, Eddie Sutton, who had drinking problems. That did not end well. One trusts that UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart has looked into the issue carefully and has solid reason to think that Mr. Gillispie has put this sort of behavior behind him.

This treatment is surprisingly fair.  Kentucky has a jaded history with corn from a jar, and is also the site of one of the worst fatal drunken-driving accidents in U.S. history.  Gillispie is known as a bit of an eccentric when it comes to basketball, and history is replete with such combinations becoming explosive.  Bottom line - some concern is definitely warranted, and the C-J editorial page gets the tone just right for once.

But who can explain the editorial decision to have two complete articles on the subject?  That is simply over the top, even for the home-town paper of a bitter rival.

The Lexington Herald-Leader, however, treats the issue much more fairly.  There is one complete article on the issue which covers the subject very thoroughly .  Almost all the opinion columnists with the notable exception of Eric Crawford of the Courier-Journal at least mention the incidents, which I consider perfectly fair.  None of them dwells on the issue.  Surprisingly, the national sports media barely mentions Gillispie's alcohol related incidents with the notable exception of ESPN nee Courier-Journal columnist, Pat Forde:

Armchair athletic directors can point out that the Wildcats passed on at least one gettable candidate who has done more on the college level: Marquette's Tom Crean. They can wonder whether a serious run at Michigan State's Tom Izzo might have landed a man with a national championship ring, instead of a guy who has one career Sweet 16 appearance. They can debate whether a guy who has done good work with other people's players has stayed put long enough to prove he can build for the long haul.

They also can discuss the administrative inconsistency in hiring a man with two alcohol-related traffic stops at a school that once had a very strict alcohol policy for its athletes -- suspending former players Jules Camara and Desmond Allison for an entire season for DUI offenses.

What the heck do they teach young columnists here in Louisville?  And I thought I was a relentless scold ...

Now obviously, we are going to be putting up with signs and message board comments from rival schools about Gillispie's and alcohol for the foreseeable future.  I haven't been to the U of L message boards yet, but this post from a Duke blogger is undoubtedly a mild harbinger of what we can expect:

The odds of Kentucky hiring a coach with three years of experience weren't that great, but that's perhaps not as surprising as hiring one with a history of drunk driving: Gillispie has two DWIs on his record. Kentucky, you may recall, put a zero tolerance policy in place for athletes. One wonders if it is the same for coaches (and administrators). The players who got in trouble under the policy are also entitled to wonder. And the state chapter of MAAD is not likely to be happy.

And the arrests bring up the question of why? From all accounts, Gillispie is a driven man, and it seems fair to assume that drinking is a way to get away from self-imposed pressure a bit. How those things will intersect with the pressure Kentucky's job naturally brings is an open question.

Now this is what I would have expected from the C-J editorial page - being a shrew and getting the facts wrong.  Perhaps this guy should apply for a job there.

Still, it is certainly fair to remark upon our new coach when it comes to incidents which impact his ability to act as an example for young men and women to emulate.  The question for me is, when will we move on from this issue and get back to basketball in our local papers?

I do know this - Victoria Sun of the Cincinnati Inquirer (to whom Gillispie now famously referred to as "Ma'am" during his press conference yesterday) Rick Bozich of the Courier-Journal ([editor's note, by Truzenzuzex] Thanks to commenter dgags for pointing out my error) had this to say:

Think about the most obsessed college basketball fan you know. The crazed guy who drives five hours to watch a scrimmage. The one whose computer homepage is a recruiting service. The woman who paints her face - and nails - in team colors.

Maybe it's you.

As obsessed as you might be, understand this: You're not as obsessed as the guy Kentucky just hired as its basketball coach. You're not as obsessed as Billy Gillispie.

If that doesn't warm the cockles of your heart, you need to open up an artery and check the color of your blood.