Gillispie just a bad fit for Kentucky
Kentucky was very hasty in making the decision to hire Gillispie two years ago
The buyout is a dicey situation because there was never a contract
I never for a second believed that Billy Donovan was going there
Seth Davis called us between halftimes at CBS to weigh in on the Billy Gillispie firing at Kentucky.
SI.com: So what happened?
Two-word answer: bad fit. I think what happened was they were very hasty in making this decision two years ago. I never understood what the rush was: I did a story on Billy and he explained to me the process of when he got hired and I was amazed to learn that his press conference came 24 hours after Kentucky initially made contact. He was at an AAU conference in Dallas, they flew him in on the plane and he had a press conference soon after. At the time, I thought it was a home run hire, he's a great coach and it seemed culturally like a really good fit. I still think he's an outstanding coach, the bad part about this is if his reputation as a good coach is hit. The problem was he was unable to embrace and adapt the culture of being the Kentucky basketball coach, all of which would have been OK if they kept winning -- you can be a bad guy, but everything is fine as long as you keep winning. I'd like to add that the thing that bothers me is Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart is the one who made the hire, but he cuts the coach loose, keeps his job and he has the backing of the school president and no one takes responsibility.
SI.com: What about this whole contract thing?
The contract thing was always very weird -- I talked to Billy Gillispie about a month ago and asked if he'd gotten it signed yet and he told me 'I've been carrying it and it's sitting here in my briefcase, we're going to get it done this week' and he kind of made like it was it was going to happen soon -- I don't know what ended up holding it up. They were going under a memorandum of understanding which laid out parameters of his salary, buyout and termination clauses, but was never intended to be a permanent document -- it was just one indication that things were just weird between Gillispie and Kentucky. From the beginning there were weird vibes coming out of it. Billy's a bachelor and he lives in a fishbowl and there's always a rumor, sighting and most of it is not true, but the vibes were weird.
So is he not getting his $6 million buyout that he's rumored to be promised?
It's a dicey situation because there was never a contract. But I have a pretty good knowledge of how that memorandum of understanding works, and if it says if there's not a contract within 60 days, this document is a contract. I have a pretty good source of what it says, but that's why god invents lawyers. My sense is that Kentucky's going to dig in their heels and split it down the middle.
When did it start to go downhill?
When they lost at home to Gardner Webb last year, that was like, whoa. I heard that he actually was angry at them for something from practice, and he made them run stairs before and their legs were dead. But last year, they rallied and made the tournament, but didn't do anything.
What's next for him?
I think he'll get hired somewhere. I talked to him earlier tonight and he seemed in pretty high spirits -- he was laughing about things and the one thing he said to me was, 'Hey man life's too short to get upset.' I think there's a sense of relief that it's over ... he's a really good coach and he will get hired somewhere that's a better fit for him.
What's next for Kentucky?
Let me start by saying, I never for a second believed that Billy Donovan was going there. I don't know why anyone would think that would happen after he went through this two years ago with the Magic job and Florida taking him back. The notion that a Donovan deal was done, which was why Kentucky got rid of Gillispie, was ridiculous because the notion Billy Donovan would negotiate with someone who already had a coach is absurd.
Another name that's been floated is Travis Ford -- I think he's a good coach, but the truth is he doesn't have a track record to prove it. Maybe he's the next John Wooden, but he hasn't been coaching that long.
My money is on John Calipari. The thing about him is he's done great things, but he's never been part of the club, he's never been inside the velvet ropes and I think this would be his chance. He's got a healthy ego and he knows if you win big at Kentucky that's the biggest win you can get. Also, if he can recruit well in Conference USA, he can recruit well in Kentucky -- but they have to come after him and make him feel wanted.
If not Calipari, then I'd say Rick Barnes, but right now we're all just guessing.
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