Kentucky is a great job, if you like insane expectations and a rabid fanbase

  • 03/26/2009 2:42 pm in

As I watched the Hoosiers struggle through a six win season, I took some solace in what I saw take place in Lexington, Kentucky this season. Despite two future NBA players and one of the worst years ever in the SEC, Kentucky managed to lose 14 games and miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 17 years.

Kentucky, which ran a perfectly respectable coach in Tubby Smith out of town a mere two seasons ago, is reportedly on the verge of severing ties with Billy Gillispie. The rallying cry amongst Big Blue Nation has shifted from ‘Blame Tubby’ to ‘Blame Billy.’

The notion of changing coaches after just two seasons is drastic and unheard of in most cases, but Gillispie’s unwillingness to stray from his stubborn ways have probably sealed his fate more than the wins and losses.

(Excessive phone calls do not qualify as most cases.)

But ultimately, like any top five job, the pressure to win big and win immediately might be more apparent at Kentucky than anywhere else.

Win a championship and you’re the king of the bluegrass. Fail to lure big recruits and reach the Final Four for nine seasons (Smith) or fail to make the tournament and embrace what it means to be the coach at a school like UK (Gillispie) and you’ll find a for-sale sign in your front yard. (By the way, my guess is that Gillispie’s going to have a hard time selling this.)

You’ll get no argument from me that Kentucky is one of the top jobs in America. Their fans show up and travel in droves. Their facilities are state of the art. And Kentucky basketball is the main event in Lexington and across a majority of the state.

But the pressure and unrealistic expectations would make any sensible coach think twice about taking the job, right? Perhaps that’s why the first time UK settled on Gillispie, a coach without a trip past the Sweet 16, a questionable personality and a past that included arrests for driving while under the influence.

For whatever reason, the intensity and spotlight in Lexington is dialed up off the charts. Maybe it’s the bourbon. Or maybe it’s a fanbase that is so obsessed with winning that they’ll call for a change after just two seasons. Or a combination of the two. Either way, it’s easy to understand why any coach would think twice before submerging into the pressure cooker in Lexington. And who can blame them?

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  • jgongora86

    Would we have a chance with Dominique ferguson if he got fired from kentucky?

  • I'd say that ship has sailed.

  • Hoosier_Hound

    The pressure wouldn't bother me so much as the job requires you to live in Kentucky.

  • Yeah, it's the fans…! What an idiot…

    Fans do not, hire, fire, employee, print, broadcast, promote, demote or anything else…

    It's the idiot media, (like yourself), that drives these rumors and reports with your uneducated dribble, with absolutely ZERO homework…

  • PK

    it’s also easy to understand why any player would think twice before submerging into the pressure cooker in Lexington.

  • q95

    i understand billy's job is safe. you see, this guy is catholic. he gave up coaching for lent…ouch.

  • jgongora86

    I think a ugly record in one of the premier programs forces the issues. But you forget that alumni donors are fans, and they were the ones who wanted Tubby out ( who I think did a great Job) and they got their wish. Now those same alumni want billy out as well. If anyone is the idiot, I think its you for being so naive.

  • ALH_00

    There's no need to do any homework to realize that Gillespie isn't getting the job done at UK. If you are a UK fan, as I'm assume, you should just admit your frustration is with your underachieving b-ball team and not “the media”. Quit crying on a rival fan blog; pretending this is the Lexington Herald-Leader.

  • Hardwood83

    I hope he stays for another year or 2 and completely runs them into the ground. He’s a bung-hole that is way over his head. I love it.

  • Kelin Blab

    I heard on the radio the college guy from Fox say, there is a presser tomorrow sending Billy on his way….they want to talk to the other Billy in Florida, Izzo ofcourse and T-Ford……

    I think they would have a shot at Fergunson, again…I don't think he wants to be in the shadow of this LN teammates anymore so L'Ville is out……IU was on his list, his did didn't like the drama with Sampson…….would take DF over Teague in a 10 out of 10 times…good kid, good family, good attitude on the court….

  • aerialM

    I have to agree, it was a small ray of sunshine for me this season to look south and see what UK has become. It kills them that Pitino has Louisville where they are. It kills them that someone with ties to the school (Donovan) actually said “no” to them. My guess is they make a 2nd major push towards Billy Donovan and when he says “thanks but no thanks. again” they'll push for guys who they'll probably not get (Calipari? Nope. Izzo? doubtful) and then make a run at Travis ford. That'll be interesting. He's only been at OK ST one year and I don't think too many people take T. Boone Pickens' money and then walk away with their reputation in tact…in the end, UK has done this to themselves. anyone who knows how it works at UK knew Gillespie wasn't going to be the guy. He's got questionable character and is stubborn…which is fine if you're going 31-3 but not so good if you're 20-14.They fire him now and what kind of message does that send? What does a new coach think “ok, welcome to kentucky. great facility, great fan base, upper tier salary…I've got two years or I'm packing my bags.” – I'm a rubbernecker & can't wait for them to whiff on Donovan and Izzo and everyone else and we can hear “ladies and gentlemen, the new coach of your kentucky wildcats: lon kruger!”

  • Bryan

    There's got to be more to this than what's been seen publicly. Gillispie comes off as a horses ass in most interviews, but I can't imagine firing a guy for being rude to an ESPN reporter. Unless the guy is a jackass to fellow coworkers, and has most of his team on the verge of transferring, I can't imagine UK pulling the trigger so soon.

    Of course, does this mean we stand a chance at winning next years game? I've also read that most of his recruits would reconsider if he's gone (next year's class, I've no clue about the 10 year-olds Billy has signed). Any chance we try to make a play for any of them?

  • Kelin Blab

    Bryan one kid at my sons daycare said if Billy is gone he is opening up his recruiting again……

  • q95

    if nothing else, this situation involving billy g. points out significant differences between how b/ball is viewed at uk vs iu. even after it became abundently clear that m. davis was way over his head and not capable of leading our program, we still had to endure this guy for 5 years. on the other hand. billy g's job is in serious jeopardy after only 2 seasons. by many standards, billy's performance wasn't nearly as bad as m. davis. in this respect, uk's program is still light years ahead of ours.

  • Taskmaster75

    I'm pretty sure that Tubby is laughing at Kentucky right now while he takes his top recruiting class and has a great young team coming in next year.

  • dale11

    Nice, kelin. that gave me a good laugh.

  • indianajoe

    hell if I was a coach I would go there in a heartbeat and tank on purpose. Getting paid six mil for being a bad coach sounds ok to me.

  • MikeyD

    it's DRIVEL you ding-o-ling. rekun yuze edgukaydid from kintukie?

  • MikeyD

    i would think that a number of big east coaches wouldn't mind getting out of the meat grinder and giving it a go at a storied program. will be interesting to see what happens.

  • Kelin Blab

    Oh that was NICE…..

  • ALH_00

    Mike Davis won 23 games in year one (interim) and made the NCAA tourney…year two, the Hoosiers won 20, and played for a national title. I don't think anyone thought that Mike Davis was “way over his head” at that point. Year three, he won 20, and again got the Hoosiers into the NCAAs…after losing some NBA talent, and senior leadership.

    In year 4, he only won 14, and only won 15 in year 5, missing the NCAA both seasons. Finally, despite getting the Hoosiers back to the NCAA's in year 6, Davis resigned.

    So, Davis had four of six seasons in the NCAAs, yet was still “run out of town” after missing the NCAAs two consecutive seasons. If indeed Gillespie is being “run out of town” in Lexington, it would seem strikingly similar to what Davis endured in after the 2004-05, and into the 2005-2006 season. The only difference to me is that Davis, unlike Gillespie, had a (relatively) proven track record of achievement.

    My point is that we (IU Fans) view b/ball exactly like UK fans, and exactly like fans at every other perennial powerhouse in any other major sport. We expect to win a vast majority of the time. We expect to get to, and excel in, post-season tournaments (or bowls), and we are relentless advocates for change at the first signs that our expectations are not being met.

  • q95

    i agree only with your last comment. let me summarize what you have accurately expresssed concerning m. davis' 6 years at iu. six seasons in which we recorded double digit losses. an overall win percentage of less than 60%. an overall in conference win percentage of roughly 57%. a win percentage in his last three years of less than 55%. not to mention the fact that we were unable to land any of the 5 mcdonald all americans from indiana that came along under davis' tenure.

    i stand by my earlier comments that davis was not capable, as a close review of his record indicates, of returning the program to the elite ranks and that is why he was let go.

  • you're looking at the body of work while ignoring the (only) major factor as to why Davis lasted so long here in Bloomington:

    Billy Gillispie went to the NIT in his 2nd year.
    Mike Davis went to the National Championship game of the NCAA Tournament in his 2nd year.

    apples and oranges my friend.

  • you're looking at the body of work while ignoring the (only) major factor as to why Davis lasted so long here in Bloomington:

    Billy Gillispie went to the NIT in his 2nd year.
    Mike Davis went to the National Championship game of the NCAA Tournament in his 2nd year.

    apples and oranges my friend.

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