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A Question of Style

If any of you out there are like me, you have looked at some of the UK fan sites and message boards and seen lots of posts like, "I just hope our new coach has an up-tempo style," "We have to get a coach who will press and run," or, "If I have to sit through one more season of slowball, I am gonna puke".

Well.  So now we have hired a coach.  What kind of style does Billy Gillispie play?  The first place I always go to determine such things is to Ken Pomeroy's site.  What I'll do below is list the raw and adjusted pace of play for Gillispie's teams for the last four years, 3 at TAMU and 1 at UTEP, and I'll throw in Florida, UK, and North Carolina's numbers from this year for comparison purposes:

At UTEP (2003-2004)
Raw Tempo: 69.3 poss/40 min National Rank=107
Adj Tempo: 69.5 poss/40 min National Rank=94

Raw Tempo: 66.6 poss/40 min National Rank=191
Adj Tempo: 65.8 poss/40 min National Rank=225

Raw Tempo: 65.5 poss/40 min National Rank=229
Adj Tempo: 64.5 poss/40 min National Rank=262

Raw Tempo: 65.4 poss/40 min National Rank=223
Adj Tempo: 65.0 poss/40 min National Rank=235

UK (2006-2007)
Raw Tempo: 67.6 poss/40 min National Rank=126
Adj Tempo: 66.9 poss/40 min National Rank=159

Florida (2006-2007)
Raw Tempo: 67.1 poss/40 min National Rank=154
Adj Tempo: 66.8 poss/40 min National Rank=168

North Carolina (2006-2007)
Raw Tempo: 73.4 poss/40 min National Rank=12
Adj Tempo: 73.1 poss/40 min National Rank=9

Gillispie himself has said, "We're not going to play any particular style just for style's sake.  We'll do the things that allow us the best chance to win."  From looking at the pace he has played for the last few years at two different universities, it is hard to conclude that "uptempo" in any way describes the game he coaches.  Only one time in the last 4 years has he played the game on average at a pace as fast as UK did this year.

Gillispie has essentially said that the kind of players he has will dictate the pace of play, and if you look at his 2004 UTEP team, you will see that they put up some big numbers offensively - three times scoring over 100 and another three times hanging at least 90 on their opponents.

But at TAMU, it is clear that Billy found a much slower style necessary.  However, even this year, where TAMU's pace, on average, was slower than UK's, you will find games that TAMU played at a very high pace, such as vs.  Texas, Colorado, Grambling and Missouri.   Interestingly enough, TAMU won every one of its games played at 68 possessions or higher.

So what does all this say about the new UK coach?  Well, to me it says his teams seem to be successful playing at almost any pace.  However, when I see teams gravitate to to numbers like TAMU or UK, it tells me that pushing the pace isn't something they will generally try to do.  Instead, they will allow the other team to push the pace.  This stands in stark contrast to North Carolina, who played only six games all year at a pace of 66 possessions or below and relentlessly tried to push the pace in every game they played.

Billy Gillispie also tends to coach tenacious man-to-man defense, which will tend to slow down any game.  It's harder to push the pace against a good man-to-man than it is against zone, because it takes longer to get an open look.

Conveniently enough, Jerry Tipton has an article in today's Herald-Leader taking a look at Gillispie's style.  He also looks at Pomeroy's numbers, and quotes Gillispie thus:

Gillispie described his "perfect style" as up-tempo and action-packed.

"I'd like to pressure full-court man-to-man," he said. "I love to run on every single opportunity (off opponents') misses and makes. I like to cause transition points with defense."

At a pep rally prior to his introductory news conference, Gillispie told fans he wanted Kentucky to take the initiative.

"We're going to be the aggressor on everything," he said. "... We're going to play as fast and hard as we can."

So what can we expect from a Gillispie-coached UK team, pacewise?  I'm not really sure.  I am inclined to take him at his word, but I'm not really sure what that means for the Kentucky team that will take the floor of Rupp arena next November.  But I do know this - if the past is a reliable indicator, those who were hoping for a return of the press-and-shoot days of Rick Pitino are likely to be disappointed.