While Kentucky officials have done little to silence the rampant speculation about Billy Gillispie’s future, alumni and close associates of the Wildcats program say the coach must change some things before he is brought back next year.
Former Kentucky star Kenny Walker has been critical of how Gillispie has handled himself in the media and in other roles as the university’s basketball ambassador. Walker said he isn’t rooting for him to be fired but is hopeful there can be changes for the good of the program.
“I’m always going to support him as long as he’s the coach at the University of Kentucky, but what I do hope happens is after the season, we can figure out what went wrong,” Walker said before Kentucky’s NIT victory Tuesday against UNLV. “If coach can admit that, ’maybe I could have done some things better,’ and air those concerns to the fans and administration, I’ll be all for that.
“But if he’s not going to change and the same things are going to continue to happen, then obviously (athletic director) Mitch Barnhart has got a tough decision to make.”
After a disappointing season in which Kentucky failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991, Gillispie’s job could be in danger after just two seasons.
Adolph Rupp Jr., son of the legendary Kentucky coach, said he also has been disappointed this year — both by the product on the court and occasionally how Gillispie has handled himself off it.
“Certain things are expected of a UK coach,” Rupp said. “It goes with the position. When people around the world speak of a coach, there’s certain expectations for that person. Apparently that hasn’t happened so far.”
Winning, even if not a cure for every problem, can provide excellent medicine. And Tuesday Kentucky’s players turned in one of their most impressive showings of the season. The Wildcats play at Creighton in second round Monday.
University president Lee Todd declined to talk about Gillispie’s situation.
“We always evaluate at the end of the year,” Todd said. “That’s all I’m going to say about it.”
Former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall said he has no doubt that the program will bounce back, but he did not say whether he thinks Gillispie will be — or should be — the man to lead them back.
“I don’t know his situation,” Hall said. “I’m not privy to what all is going on with his contract. Don’t want to know.”
Hall does know fans are upset with the results, but he doesn’t think the mediocrity at UK will last. The Wildcats’ program will soon re-emerge as a national power, he said.
“Kentucky basketball, thank goodness, has a great foundation,” Hall said. “It’s not going to crumble. It’s going to come back, and it won’t take long.”