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Home Sweet Home?

So today, A Sea of Blue will play amateur psychologist and examine Coach Gillispie's recent purchase of a 12,000 square foot home in Jessamine County.

Why would a bachelor like Coach Gillispie buy such a large home?  Can we learn anything about him by this purchase? Well, maybe.

First off, let's look at his upbringing.  Gillispie grew up in both modest surroundings, and in modest means.  Gillispie worked as a cattle truck driver and an oil field worker before getting into coaching via high school.  He was said to be very reserved back in those days, not the brash and confident man that presents himself to the public now.

Gillispie is also known to stay up until the wee hours watching tape, is an early riser and has been said to subsist on peanut butter crackers and Dr. Peppers.  His mother, "Wimpy", says that he was raised to give an honest days work when he was being paid by someone for it.

Gillispie, personally, has been said to be a bit of a romantic, a sucker for happy endings, a believer in fate and destiny.  One can imagine movies like The Natural, Rocky and The Last Boy Scout in his collection, inspirational movies where the underdog comes up big, the handsome hero overcomes incredible odds, or the wise-cracking, troubled hero saves the day.  Happy endings and allegorical princes on white horses riding off with the princess.

When he coached at UTEP and invited his players to a Sunday selection party for the NCAA championship, they famously noted that the house was only partially furnished and still had his Christmas tree up1.

In his last residence at Texas A&M, Gillispie was said to have purchased it because of the pool and spa.  He hired third parties to furnish and decorate the house.  Understandable after his selection Sunday party at UTEP.  Also, it seems that Gillispie was looking for a larger home at his last stop, before Kentucky lured him away2.

Given all this, why would Gillispie choose such a large house, one that he will undoubtedly have to pay others to maintain?  I can think of several solid reasons:

  1. Entertainment -- Gillispie will undoubtedly entertain quite a bit at his home.
  2. A message about who he is -- A large home implies success, and it is important for a basketball coach to don the trappings of success.
  3. Privacy -- Gillispie is not known as a recluse, but he is known as being obsessed with basketball coaching.  A larger house would afford him the privacy he would likely want to concentrate on his obsession.
  4. Amenities -- He likes the amenities larger homes afford, such as pools, spas, and room to spread out.
  5. It's something he wants -- Gillispie seems to prefer larger homes, and not just for the rational reasons we mention above.
People who come from humble upbringings very often enjoy the trappings of success, and bigger homes represent the type of investment that reminds them where they came from, and what they did to get here.  It is a motivation in itself, a constant reminder that hard work pays -- something that Gillispie must have doubted many times from the cab of his cattle truck, or laboring on the oil fields.

Gopal Ahluwalia, a statistician with the National Association of Homebuilders, told the Herald-Leader that many people now buy homes less for functional need than lifestyle.  But one wonders how this assessment works with Gillispie.  His lifestyle is known to be relatively spartan, focused mostly on work, work, and for fun, even more work.

Whitney Pannel, the Realtor who helped Gillispie locate his Jessamine County home, suggested the usual reasons for why people buy such houses -- privacy, land, living space and room for the "stuff they accumulate"3.

But clearly, accumulating "stuff" is not something Gillispie has done over the years.  He seems to be more inclined to let others go out and get stuff for him.  He has bigger fish to fry.

Is the Coach's new home a statement?  You bet it is, and quite possibly more than that.  It is a reminder of where he came from and how he got here.  Kentucky fans may even hope is is more than that, that it represents a commitment to success that some felt has been lacking in recent years.

What we have yet to determine is if Gillispie can fill that house, not with "stuff" or furniture or even food, but with the spirit of a champion.  His home is way bigger than he is, than his needs are -- the perfect metaphor for a man with a job the size of the Kentucky head basketball coach.  

Can Gillispie become large enough to fill all this empty space, both personally and professionally?  I don't know, but I feel confident that if he fails, it won't be for lack of effort.

  1.  Coaching an obsession for UK's Gillispie - Lawrence Journal-World, April 12, 2007
  2.  A&M:  Gillispie's last college station? - Dallas Morning News, Feb. 11, 2007
  3.  6BR, 8BA, theater, basketball court -- Lexington Herald-Leader, August 12, 2007