In the train wreck of a dilemma former Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie is faced with over recent allegations of player and NCAA by-law abuse in his first year at Texas Tech, several former players have come to Gillispie's defense (in this Jason King ESPN article), including former Kentucky star Josh Harrellson.
The following quotes are excerpts from King's outstanding article, beginning with Harrellson's thoughts on playing for Gillispie at Kentucky:
"Coach Gillispie is a very smart coach. He knew basketball. I don't think he had the best way of teaching it. But I'm very thankful for what he did. He made all of us mentally tough. He made all three of us (Harrellson, Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins) be able to do things we've never been able to do before. It's probably why we're here today, because of how mentally tough he made us."
Robert Lowendowski, who played for Pat Knight for three years before finishing his college career under Gillispie at Texas Tech, was effusive about his feelings for his former coach:
"I would play for him again. He loves his players, with no exceptions. I would never doubt that for a second. Playing for him was tough, but I came out alive and a better person for it."
"Coach Gillispie pushed me to my physical and mental limits, and I came out an improved person. I know I can handle anything that comes my way."
For more on Gillispie, follow me after the jump.
Joseph Jones, who played for Gillispie at Texas A&M, said his time under Billy G. was difficult, but worth the effort.
"The four years I played for Coach G were the best four years of my life. He worked us hard, but he loved us and cared for us. That's why I think (Texas Tech's players) are just being soft. I've talked to a lot of college basketball players across the country. What I went through, they went through. Practicing hard ... coaches in your face ... coaches doing everything they can to turn you into a man by teaching you life lessons through basketball. One thing (Gillispie) always said was, 'If you quit on your team, if you quit on the court, you'll quit in life.'"
Echoing Jones' talk of the complaining Texas Tech players being "soft" is Red Raider's radio color analyst Andy Ellis (who played at Tech under Bob Knight):
"Someone needs to tell the other side of the story. (Gillispie) was hired to change the culture of the program, and to do that, you've got to be tough. He's the best person for this job."
As for the players who have complained about Gillispie's coaching tactics being too harsh, Ellis doesn't mince words:
"They're overreacting. Today's generation of kids has been coddled. A lot of them are soft. There are high school kids playing on ESPN now and getting treated like kings. When you get to college and you're the seventh, eighth or ninth man, all of a sudden you've got to work hard. And they don't know how."
Former Texas A&M All-American Acie Law spoke out in defense of his former coach by saying that some players want the glory that comes with being a college athlete, but don't want to put in the work:
"He's constantly pushing, constantly yelling. He's passionate and energetic. It's two or three hours of hard ass work, and it's every day. A lot of players want to be successful but don't want to put the work into it."
Law continued his praise of his former coach with words about how much Gillispie cared for his players:
"We loved him, and he loved us. There would be times when we'd sit down as a team and he would explain to us what he was pushing for. He's get emotional sometimes and cry. You could see how much he cared about us, and that'd make us care about him. He didn't have a wife. He didn't have kids. He just had his basketball team, and he wanted to win so bad."
While every story has its nuances, Gillispie, even with the support of former players and employers, finds himself in a difficult spot at Texas Tech, especially if he's found to have intentionally broken the NCAA mandated 20-hour per week practice rule. Although Gillispie certainly screwed the pooch at UK, I wish him no ill will, and hope he recovers from his latest setback.
Jason King's article is a great piece of reporting and well worth the time it takes to read his work.