By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard some of the horror stories about Billy Gillispie’s tenure as head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Staff turnover. Roster turnover. Exceeding limits on practice time. Forcing players to practice and play while injured. Some of it was, frankly, horrifying.
But over the weekend, Gillispie’s supporters started to come out en masse.
As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story, and we are finally getting to hear the other side.
Jason King of ESPN.com got in touch with seemingly everyone from Gillispie’s past, as he was able to quote a number of former players and coaching colleagues that sang Gillispie’s praises. Former Texas A&M all-american Acie Law IV told King that “we loved him, and he loved us”, while another former Aggie, Joseph Jones, said that playing for Gillispie for four years was the “best four years of my life”. Bill Self had a lot to say about his former assistant, stressing that his style of coaching can’t be that bad if it worked in the past. Even Josh Harrellson, who was forced to spend one halftime at Kentucky sitting in a bathroom stall, had kind words to say about Gillispie.
But the most interesting supporter was Robert Lewandowski, who played on the Tech team last season:
“I would play for him again,” Robert Lewandowski wrote in an email from Poland, where he plays professionally. “He loves his players, with no exceptions. I would never doubt that for a second. Playing for him was tough, but I came out alive and a better person for it.”
“I wouldn’t change anything that happened over the last four years,” said Lewandowski, who spent three seasons under Pat Knight before Gillispie was hired in March 2011. “Coach Gillispie pushed me to my physical and mental limits, and I came out an improved person. I know I can handle anything that comes my way.
“The process wasn’t very pretty, but isn’t that how life usually is?”
He wasn’t the only former player that came to Gillispie’s defense.
Jaron Nash, who was one of the players that transferred out of Texas Tech during Gillispie’s tenure, was quoted by CBSSports.com’s article that put Gillispie’s job in serious jeopardy. In it, Nash said:
“We used to go more than four hours all the time … I remember that day when we went almost all day. We didn’t leave until 9 p.m. or so. It was pretty bad. A lot of guys were really hurt after it. One guy had a stress fracture in both legs.”
But his father spoke to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal over the weekend, and according to him, Jaron has absolutely no bad feelings towards Gillispie and that his decision to transfer had nothing to do with the coach. You see, Jerry Nash, Jaron’s father, has multiple sclerosis. In an effort to keep his father’s spirits up, Jaron transferred to North Dakota to be closer to his family and be able to play in front of his father more often.
Gillispie supported the decision. And, more importantly, the family:
Shortly after Nash was granted that release, Gillispie helped enter the Tech team into an awareness walk for multiple sclerosis around Jones AT&T Stadium as a tribute to Jerry Nash, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1999, he said.
“When Ron-Ron showed me video of that,” Jerry Nash said, “it brought tears to my eyes.”
Gillispie continued to reach out to Jaron Nash even after he left Tech, his father said.
“He was frustrated at first (when he went to North Dakota),” Jerry Nash said. “Coach Gillispie called him a couple of times and told him to keep his head up.”
There are very few people in this world that are truly evil or impeccably saintly. Good people can and will do bad things, the same way that bad people can and will do good things.
Unfortunately, Gillispie has done even bad things that keeping his job with the Red Raiders seems very unlikely.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.