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The Billy Gillispie Syndrome

Updated on April 8, 2012

In 2004 Billy Gillispie landed the perfect job. He was hired as the head basketball coach at Texas A&M. The previous year the Aggies finished 7-21 and did not win a single conference game. Now the Aggies have not always been that bad in basketball but they have certainly never been anywhere close to a basketball power either. Until Gillispie got there that is. He completely turned that whole program around in 3 short years. In his first year they improved their win total by 8 games in conference play, finishing 8-8. Their overall record improved to 21-10. The next year, despite losing his best player Antoine Wright, Gillispie managed to lead the Aggies to a 10-6 conference record and a fourth place finish in the Big 12. They even received an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament, a place they had not been since 1987. In the first round the Aggies defeated Big East champion Syracuse.

If at this point you're reading this and saying to yourself "wow the Aggies were rolling" then you wouldn't be alone. I'm thinking the same thing to myself. For sustained success though a coach must be able to recruit. And that's exactly what Gillispie was doing. In 2004 he signed both Joseph Jones and Dominique Kirk as well as Josh Carter in 2005. Those 3 guys along with Acie Law who was in place before Gillispie got there really gave A&M basketball significance. Then came Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis, and Derrick Roland in 2006. In that 2006-2007 season the Aggies won 13 conference games finishing second only to Kansas who they actually beat at Allen Fieldhouse. They at one point had a 21 game home winning streak and finished the regular season ranked #7 in the Associated Press Poll. A&M made it to the Sweet Sixteen for only the third time in school history. Everything was PERFECT for Billy Gillispie. What has followed in the last 5 years can perhaps best be described as an epic collapse on his behalf.

Gillispie was offered and accepted the head coaching job at Kentucky.In 2006-2007 Kentucky was only a #8 seed(as they were the year before) in the NCAA Tournament compared to A&M's #3 seed. It appeared at that juncture in time that the Aggies were ascending to the top of college basketball in skyrocketing type fashion while Kentucky was, by their standards, a sub par team. But rather than ride with the hot horse Gillispie elected to go where he thought the grass was greener. Two years is all Gillispie had before Kentucky lost patience with him. But in hindsight that's not what stands out to me after a coach has such a short and unsuccessful tenure at any particular school. It's looking back at the press conference at which he was hired by that school which gives me so much to laugh about. A huge crowd gathered on campus to rejoice and celebrate the man who would save Kentucky basketball. I don't really need to say anymore. Just watch the video below and enjoy.


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