What Should the Kentucky Wildcats Do With Billy Gillispe?

Ric RobertsContributor IMarch 26, 2009

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 28:  Head coach Billy Gillispie of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts during the SEC game against the LSU Tigers at Rupp Arena on February 28, 2009 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

There is a lot of speculation as to whether the University of Kentucky should send head coach Billy Gillispie packing or give him more time to rebuild the program.

Living in Lexington, I get to hear from both sides of the fence, but the "Fire Billy G" contingent seems to be yelling louder these days.

As with all good coaching decisions, there are two sides to this argument.

I can totally understand why the large majority of Cats fans want the coach sacked. This is the tradition that Rupp built.

UK has won more games than any other Division I team in history. Kentucky is second in NCAA tournament titles with seven.

This is, for crying out loud, the team that ESPN loves to cover just so they can get a good camera shot of Ashley Judd.

Look at what Billy has done to the Big Blue Nation.

For the first time in almost 20 years, Kentucky is not in the NCAA field of 65.

They got bounced from the NIT in the quarterfinals, and look over matched doing it.

They finished fourth in the SEC East, and it wasn't a surprise.

Let me say that again...FOURTH! In the SEC!

They have lost to Gardner Webb and VMI at the hallowed Rupp Arena since Billy Gillispe took over.

This team has played all year with no direction, no consistency, little passion, and no help for potential NBA prospects Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson.

And if all the on the court problems are not enough, Coach Gillispie seems to not be the greatest off the court representative the school has ever seen.

His DUI arrest in Texas is well documented. There are tales of his drinking escapades running rampant in Lexington, including rumors about him being kicked out of hotels and being banned from some of the city's finest restaurants.

He has also had several altercations with the media. He has bashed ESPN sideline reporters for "dumb questions" and has displayed a horrible attitude with some of the local media, which has not gone over very well with the fan base.

But with all that being said, firing the second year man may not be the wisest course of action for the University or for the development of the program.

He currently would have to be paid a six million dollar buyout. With UK raising tuition, again, this payment to get rid of an athletics coach could be a public relations nightmare.

Also, with the problems Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart had trying to hire a coach after Tubby Smith left, going through another coaching search may further tarnish the reputation of the school more than a couple of struggling years on the hardwood.

The fans here were so quick to run Tubby Smith out of town because he couldn't recruit, his style of defensive play was boring, and didn't get the Cats back to the Final Four in the last 10 years he was in Lexington.

Even though Tubby was averaging 26 wins a year, that was not good enough. Now Gillispie has come in a recruited some good talent, including the aforementioned Patterson.

With the verbal commitments of prep star Daniel Orton, Kentucky high school product Jon Hood, and Texas prep point guard G.J. Vilarino, this young team looks like they are starting to get the pieces necessary to reestablish Kentucky as an elite program like the fans demand.

Gillispie needs time to bring in more of his own players as those Smith recruited graduate.

If the fans hated Tubby's recruiting classes so badly, why can't they give Billy G. time to get rid of what was left behind and see what he can do once the roster is full of "his" guys.

Every team goes through ups and downs.

The beloved Rick Pitino has been NIT bound twice since he took over at Louisville.

The man that UK fans wanted initially, Flordia's Billy Donovan, just got knocked out of his second straight NIT.

Even Duke, North Carolina, and UCLA have had down years. It happens to all the great programs, but it is hard to blame a guy who has only been here two years. Additionally, the proverbial cupboard was bare of any significant talent when he got here, except for Meeks.

I agree that Billy Gillispie has some image problems, the team turns the ball over too much, and the lack of the coach's flexibility with his offensive and defensive schemes are enough for Big Blue Nation to call for his head.

I also think he deserves two to three more years to bring back the luster to this once shining beacon of basketball programs, with his recruiting classes and his seemingly endless desire to tackle this challenge.

Either way, Kentucky is definitely in for a trying off season, and it will not be boring.


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