Friday, March 27, 2009

Who is really twisting in the wind at Kentucky?

Rumors, reports, and speculation have been sweeping across the Commonwealth of Kentucky, creating a windstorm that has Billy Clyde Gillispie twisting and turning with no apparent control of his own fate. Thursday evening television station WHAS in Louisville reported several sources saying Gillispie will not be returning as the head coach at Kentucky next season. Notice the report doesn't say he had been fired. U.K. responds with a release that says “UK men’s basketball coach Billy Gillispie has not been fired. There have been no meetings between Gillispie and UK officials today and there is no scheduled press conference for tomorrow”. Notice the statement doesn't say Gillispie is coming back to coach next season. So what the heck is going on? What makes the most sense to me is this: Kentucky wants Billy gone, but only if they have the right coach to replace him. It will cost Kentucky $6 million to send him packing. A steep price in this economy, and very tough to explain amid rising tuition prices and cuts elsewhere around the university. Sure, Kentucky has high rolling donors to cover the cost. But would Bobby Joe Bigbucks and company want to cover the cost unless they know their money is good enough to bring in Billy Donovan, John Calipari, or another coach who has been there-done that? Hey, Gillispie is going to get his either way, 6 million smackers or another season to coach the Wildcats. After next season, he is still owed $6 million if he's forced out. Meanwhile U.K. Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart knows he has to get this one right. Not only right, but he has to get a coach with instant credibility. Those don't come easy and they don't come cheap. It could happen, and maybe Barnhart has it under control and a new coach is ready to roll as soon as possible. Or maybe it's Barnhart who is twisting in the wind.

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