Billy Gillispie


Can Tubby Smith save Texas Tech?

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I couldn’t get anyone to say anything interesting about Tubby Smith. I thought this might hinder my efforts to write a feature about his first season at Texas Tech, until I realized something important..

Tubby Smith isn’t in the business of being interesting.

That’s part of what made him an ill fit at Kentucky, where the slowed-down style dubbed “Tubbyball” helped him win the 1998 national title that is still his calling card in coaching circles. It also got him on the bad side of Big Blue Nation, who howled with frustration watching prize recruit Rajon Rondo walking the ball up the court between 2005-2006. A couple of 12+ loss seasons put the writing on the wall, so Smith jumped to Minnesota before he could be pushed out.

Billy Gillispie followed Smith at Kentucky and preceded him at his current posting at Texas Tech. Gillispie’s antics in Lexington and Lubbock served very well to show fans that they could do worse than Orlando Smith… a lot worse.

Which begs the question: outside of Gillispiean context, is Tubby Smith a good coach? Is he what Texas Tech needs to survive the shark-infested Big 12?

I’m going to say yes, and I’m going to tell you why.

First of all, let’s look at the culture of Texas Tech over the past few years. The school has made national waves by hiring brilliant mavericks – Bobby Knight, Billy Gillispie and former football coach Mike Leach – and that’s been good and bad. Talented athletes have made their way to Lubbock and the school is a known quantity to recruits and fans. On the flipside, altercations between high-strung coaches and the players under their charge have added a powerful negative stigma to the headlines.

You’ve heard the saying “There’s no such thing as bad press,” but we might have to re-evaluate that statement from time to time. Tech’s reputation was damaged by those reports, which has affected the school’s ability to attract top talent of the coaching and athletic variety ever since.

From that vantage point, Tubby Smith looks like the safe choice. He wins, and he doesn’t cause controversy. He attracts positive attention. I mean, here I am writing about a program I tabbed to finish dead last in the Big 12 this season. That’s the Tubby effect.

source: Getty Images
Tubby Smith will bring joy back to the Texas Tech sidelines. (Getty)

And Tubby Smith wins games. His career mark of 511 wins to 226 losses (a .693 winning percentage) is somewhat distorted by that single national title, representing a career achievement that somehow detracts from every subsequent season in which he fails to approach the same lofty heights. He won at Tulsa, he won at Georgia and he won at Minnesota. He’ll win at Texas Tech, though not right away by any stretch of the imagination.

In fact, I don’t expect Tubby Smith to work miracles in Lubbock. I’ll be impressed if he gets the Red Raiders to play better than .500 ball in the rugged Big 12 by the 2016 season. But he’ll bring in good players, he’ll win a few games, and he’ll lend an invincible aura of even-handed, avuncular fairness to the proceedings. He’ll rehabilitate the Texas Tech name and prepare it to take the next step under an up-and-coming younger man; perhaps current Tech assistant coach Pooh Williamson, who played under Smith at Tulsa. Maybe someone else.

For now, however, Smith is the Texas Tech program’s physical therapist: He’ll supervise those first slow steps toward recovery, and make sure his team doesn’t face-plant. Soon, he’ll have the program walking and even running.

Tubby Smith represents a positive view of the near future in Lubbock. He can, and likely will, have the Red Raiders back in the Big Dance some day, and that’s a pretty good carrot for a program that hasn’t been there since 2007.

If he wears a suit and smiles like your granddad and nobody says anything interesting about him along the way, is that really such a bad thing?

Former Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie accused of verbal abuse by mother of teenage camper

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Billy Gillispie, ousted as head coach at Texas Tech this week, has another matter on his hands, according to the Associated Press.

In a report published Friday, the AP reports that the mother of a teenage boy who attended one of Gillispie’s summer camps wrote a letter to a top Texas Tech administrator, alleging that Gillispie verbally abused her son while at camp.

From the AP:

The woman wrote that other coaches at the camp told her son that Gillispie “likes to pick someone and try to `break them’ for some reason,” and that the young man “wasn’t doing anything wrong,” according to a letter to Texas Tech’s chancellor obtained through an open records request.

According to the mother’s letter, her son overthrew a pass to a fellow camper, which sparked the reaction from Gillispie.

“It happens,” the mother wrote, as reported by the AP. “That’s the only thing he thought brought on the barrage of insults spurted from the mouth of your coach Gillispie. This was the first of many such verbal attacks.”

Gillispie has been hospitalized multiple times in recent weeks, which is the official reason for his resignation, though accusations of player mistreatment by the coach have been swirling in media reports at the same time.

Among the claims are accusations that Gillispie forced players to practice over the time allowed by the NCAA, causing injury to his players.

Gillispie was set to begin his second year at Texas Tech before his resignation.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Billy Gillispie not to ‘engage’ in program in ‘any way’ until meeting with AD

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It’s been a rocky few weeks for head coach Billy Gillispie at Texas Tech.

First, news broke that players had held a meeting with the athletic director Kirby Hocutt to discuss Gillispie’s mistreatment of his players.

That came the same time Gillispie had checked into the hospital, reportedly with high blood pressure, but fearing a heart attack.

And now the latest: According to the Associated Press, Hocutt has told Gillispie that he was not to “engage” in daily operations of the program in “any way” until the two meeting to discuss the developments of the past few weeks.

His first season at Texas Tech in 2011-12 was tumultuous, ending in an 8-23 overall record, including 1-17 in the Big 12. Now reports of mistreatement, including practicing over NCAA limits.

Added to that, 15 players have the program since his tenure began in March 2011.

The most brutal details of Gillispie’s time in Lubbock came from a report from Jeff Goodman of that detail the case of Kader Tapsoba, a player who suffered multiple stress fractures but was forced to continue practicing.

“[Tapsoba] was literally crying at practice,” a source told Goodman. “He couldn’t even run and Gillispie had him running up and down the steps at the arena. I remember the doctor getting the X-rays back and coming to practice and telling Gillispie it was really bad. He’d just ice him up and tell him to go practice.”

“He shouldn’t have been practicing,” the source added. “But he bullied everyone, including the trainer. He’d make the trainer make kids come back. Bodies were dropping like flies. One day I walked in and the whole team was in the training room. All the players and even the managers. He’d make them practice.”

So here is Gillispie’s time at Texas Tech, seemingly holding on by its final threads, using sick days to be away from the program since leaving the hospital.

Hard times continue in Lubbock.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Report: Jordan Tolbert doesn’t want to play for Billy Gillispie

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The biggest story in college basketball at the moment is the status of Texas Tech head coach Billy Gillispie, regarding both his health and his position with the Red Raiders.

A number of players — both current and former — have already told multiple outlets that Gillispie has been both verbally and physically abusive towards his players in his season-plus in Lubbock, including making an injured player practice, forcing him to tears.

Now it seems like the most important player on Gillispie’s roster is coming out against the coach as well.

ESPN’s Andy Katz spoke with Texas Tech’s Jordan Tolbert, the team’s leading scorer last season, who said he doesn’t want to play for Gillispie when the coach returns from a medical leave of absence.

“I don’t,” Tolbert said by phone. “I don’t. Maybe I would for the assistants. I haven’t put that much thought into it. There is a big sense of urgency. I don’t want to play for him if he comes back.”

This could be the roster death-blow for Gillispie in a cycle that’s led to the conclusion that Gillispie hasn’t changed since he was fired after two drama-filled seasons at Kentucky.

If your best — and for a team with a revolving door for a roster, your most important — player doesn’t want to play for you, who will?

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can find him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Kentucky player verifies Gillispie’s tough practice habits

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By now, you know all about what Billy Gillispie is accused of. Details have come out about all-day practices at Texas Tech, as well as less-than-sound treatment of injured players – the last thing Texas Tech needs in the wake of the Mike Leach/Craig James football kerfuffle.

There are many surprising things about what’s going on, mostly in the vein of “how did you not see this coming?”

You’d think Gillispie, for one, would have reined himself in and avoided controversy. His reputation was in tatters after his time at Kentucky, he spent time out of the coaching game, and he had to know that a third chance wasn’t likely to present itself.

In similar fashion, you’d think that the AD at Tech would be super-duper careful about hiring a guy who had a rep for being rough on players. Again, the aforementioned issue with a concussed player, his famous father, and a potentially dangerous dose of discipline probably should have had everyone walking on eggshells regarding the next big hire.

But Gillispie is accused of being a recidivist, and as often happens when someone breaks the barrier of silence in these matters, more accusers are coming out of the woodwork to pile on.

The Lexington Herald-Leader published a report today based on a conversation with former Kentucky walk-on Dusty Miller, who confirmed that his time under Gillispie had much in common with what Texas Tech players have allegedly gone through.

“I was not surprised by one thing I read,” Mills told the paper. “Nothing was outrageous to me.”

Mills said he was not privy to conversations between Gillispie and other UK players, but confirmed that stars like Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks often appeared to be practicing while injured, and did not seem happy to be doing so.

“Physically, they were playing in pain, and it was hard to watch at times.”

Mills was kicked off the team by Gillispie, but denies that he has an axe to grind. He praised Gillispie’s coaching ability, and thanked him for giving him the opportunity to join the Wildcats as a walk-on. Still, he couldn’t bring himself to exonerate or fully understand Gillispie’s coaching style.
“I think he does really care for his players,” Mills said. “I think he does. He just has a very odd way of showing it. Obviously, something is going on there, and I’m not sure what it is.”

Report: Gillispie called 911 fearing heart attack

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Billy Gillispie is having a rough weekend.

According to a report in the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Texas Tech coach called 911 early Friday morning in extreme pain, fearing that he was suffering a heart attack or stroke. Speaking with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal today, Gillispie claimed to be unaware that his players had met with the school’s AD, leveling allegations that he had mistreated them during offseason practices.

“There will be an appropriate time to talk about that,” Gillispie told the Lubbock paper. “Right now I’m trying to get better.”

Gillispie was once one of college basketball’s brightest stars, building UTEP and Texas A&M into contenders before landing one of the sport’s top jobs as head man at Kentucky. His tenure there was marred by uncharacteristic losses, and he was fired after two seasons, with his fall from grace capped by a drunk driving arrest and subsequent treatment for alcohol abuse.

Gillispie returned to his home state as head coach of Texas Tech last season, suffering through an abysmal 8-23 campaign. The 52-year-old coach acknowledged in today’s report that he had been suffering from stress, which may have contributed to his symptoms, which included dangerously high blood pressure.

“It was the worst I’ve ever felt,” he told the paper.