Kentucky is no longer THE basketball power—GET OVER IT!
By Bill Smith
Wildcat fans are standing outside the Athletic Director’s office at Kentucky waiting for the white smoke from the chimney that indicates coach Billy Gillispie has been fired. No white smoke yet but it is just a matter of time. Kentucky’s years of dominating college basketball are over. The SEC is no longer the conference that super talents flock to. Granted, Ky has one of the greatest histories in all of college BB, but times have changed. To Blue fans—GET OVER IT!
Since the days of Adolph Rupp [42 years 876-190 (82.2%)] and Joe B. Hall [13 years, 297-100 (74.80%)], the Wildcats have gone through coaches like they were paper towels—useful but disposable.
Eddie Sutton [4 years 88-39 (69.3%)] followed Hall and committed two unforgivable sins. First, he had less than a 70% winning percentage. But even worse, he was caught in a tsunami of NCAA rule violations and was run out of town.
Rick Pitino [8 years 219-50 (81.4%)] left the New York Knicks to save the program and he did. He took the team to a great record. But when the NBA came calling, Pitino answered the phone and accepted Boston’s 50 million dollar offer. He has since said leaving UK was a mistake. I can’t help but wonder if he feels that way now seeing what is going on in Lexington now.
In Orlando “Tubby” Smith [8 years 191-52 (78.6%)] UK found its guy to follow Pitino. Smith started out great. After the 2003 season, he was given a contract extension that was supposed to run through 2011. But after the 2006 season, fan pressure and failure to dominate the SEC and the NCAA Tournaments chased Tubby out of town as well.
That brings us to Gillispie. Like his predecessors, he had a track record of building programs. Most recently he had brought Texas A&M’s BB program back from the dead taking it to heights it had never seen and has not seen since he left. Less than two years ago, University of Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart told the fans that “Billy Gillispie has all the qualities we were looking for in Kentucky’s next head coach. He is a tireless worker, a great recruiter and is passionate about winning and winning the right way. He will make the Commonwealth proud both as a coach and a person.”
But in 2008-09, Gillispie’s charges went 8-8 in the SEC, failed to get a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, and lost in the 3rd round of the NIT. He is history. At UK, a 59.7 winning percentage is not going to get it done.
My Analysis: UK and the SEC are not the center of the basketball world any more. The SEC was one of the weakest conferences this seasons and even so, Gillispie could manage no better than a break even record in the league.
UK has established a history of running good coaches out of town. That is not the kind of reputation that is conducive to bring in a great coach to replace Gillispie. Gillispie is a good coach that has his players work hard for him. If you must make a change, bring in a recruiting coordinator to help bring in talent. The problem is talent not coaching. Given your record of firing good coaches, you may be sorry you fired him.
I have a friend that is a recovering UK fan. This is what he said to me yesterday.
“I miss Rupp. Hell I even miss Tubby.” Enough said.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .
My email is [email protected]