by Kevin Faris
UK will play Creighton Monday night in the 2nd round of the NIT. Depending on what your read or who your “inside sources” this could be the last game for UK coach Billy Gillispie. Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio confirms what Larry Vaught (who, for my money is the best local reporter when it comes to UK sports) reported (sorry, no link) that UK President Lee Todd and UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhardt had a meeting about Billy G. What no one is sure about, be it Jones, Vaught, or anyone else, is whether or not Billy G. was actually present for the meeting. If he was, I think it is probably the first step toward rehabbing a tarnished image. If he was not there, then that is probably not a good sign for his future employment.
So, what will happen? If Billy G. is staying at UK then the Mitch is doing him a horrible disservice by not coming out and voicing his support. All it would take is an authentic statement of support from the administration to stop the rumor mongering. If Billy G. is staying, it must be said that Mitch has not handled this well. According to a report on WKYT last night, Mitch has not returned phone calls by the parents of some of UK’s incoming class.
If Billy G. is leaving, whether by choice or by force, then it is understandable why Mitch has been silent. To voice support for a coach you do not believe will be here next season is not the kind of thing Mitch would do. Say what you want, and any visit to a UK message board has A LOT to say, I don’t think he would be openly dishonest.
If Billy G. is not the coach here next year, a lot of the national press will focus on the “On Court” failings of UK over the past two years. Losses at home to horrible teams, odd substitutions, stubbornness with strategies, and missing the NCAA tournament are all bad things, but are not, by themselves, firable offences after only two seasons. It is his refusal to understand the other parts of his job, the “Off Court” issues that will do him in. This includes, the media problems (Jeannine Edwards, ESPN All Access) as well as his attitude and dealings with other members of the public. The UK job is not the same as a normal NCAA coaching job. The UK coach is a representation of the University and the Commonwealth. If he does not get it now, the question is whether he ever will.
In short, stay tuned. Monday night should be an exciting game, although as a UK fan I am finding it difficult to get really excited about an NIT game. If UK wins, Notre Dame probably awaits, and another game gives us plenty of more time for job speculation. If UK loses, then the countdown for whether or not Billy G. stays begins.