Ahhhh the rumor mill. Dont we all love it so? Whether it is Steve Spurrier buying a horse farm, Billy Donovan’s private plane coordinates or JJ Hickson’s Myspace page, the rumor mill gives us more than enough fodder to keep the internet sites rolling throughout the sports year. The latest, and if my email count is any indication, the most interesting to the fans, is the story that Billy Gillispie will leave Kentucky at the end of the year to go to Oklahoma State. This story, which has roots in the Cowboys’ fans disdain for the young Sutton and a Foxsports article that threw the rumor out as a possibility, is quietly spreading around the UK fanbase and has left many fans wondering if it could be true. As an initial matter, this much is clear. After talking with multiple people on the issue, including a couple of national writers who have been privately pushing this as a possibility, there isnt any concrete evidence that this is in the works. The folks at OSU have not made any decision on Sutton’s future and no conversation has taken place about Gillispie in Stillwater. So when you hear the words “done deal” or “90% chance” on this issue, you can throw it out as simply incorrect.
But even if the story at this point isnt based on reality, is such a move possible? On the OSU side of things, there is certainly money to bring in a big name coach. While the speculation centered around an $8 million dollar a year deal for Gillispie, even if that is ridiculous, there is a donor at OSU who can front whatever money is necessary to bring a bigtime coach into the program. The problem of course is two-fold….would even OSU pay that silly amount of money being currently speculated and if they did, would it be on Gillispie? If you were willing to pay an obscene amount of money, you could likely have any coach in America. As good as Gillispie is, would he be the first choice over any coach in America? And even further, if you were OSU and could spend money on such a coach, wouldnt you go hire a football coach with that regard….since ultimately that is the favorite sport of your fanbase. OSU fans love basketball….but this is the Big 12….and 8 million on a basketball coach simply would be greeted with laughter and taunts, especially by the rivals in Norman.
However even if we were to forget about the OSU side of the equation, such a deal would most importantly require a desire by Gillispie to leave the University of Kentucky. While the funds quoted from OSU are absurd, the notion that a coach might simply not love the pressure at Kentucky is not. The UK job is not for everyone….it is stressful, it is intense and it involves a lot off the court. A good friend of mine who knows Gillispie very well has told me that these secondary parts of the job took Gillispie by surprise and that he wasnt initially prepared for them. Gillispie is a basketball nut and didnt realize what other parts of the job that UK’s coach had to deal with and that this pressure to deal with alumni, sponsors and media responsibilties took some adjustment. However he also assured me that at this point, Gillispie is much more comfortable in his role and has settled into the seat that can be very big to fill. From watching Gillispie at press conferences, this new attitude can be seen. Whereas he was once very dismissive of the media and difficult to interact with, he now is much more pleasant and relaxed in front of the press. Winning certainly helps, but so does being a man much more comfortable in his role and that comfort is now obvious to the onlooker. Whereas back in December he often looked as if he would rather be anywhere than talking to the media, he now stays for every question and usually tries to give you a straight answer….a stark change from the non-conference part of the schedule.
In short, if Gillispie is wanting to get out of Lexington, he certainly isnt showing it by the way he is doing his job. He is recruiting fervently and has been as active as any head coach that I have ever seen during the season. He is reaching out more to the secondary parts of the UK basketball world and his role as ambassador of the UK program is being filled much more completely and with a growing sense of purpose. There has been nothing that I have seen to suggest a man leaving and the one person I know that knows him well has told me that the exact opposite is true. OSU may very well decide to get rid of baby Sutton and could even come after Billy Clyde. But before such a move could be made (assuming of course that ridiculous sums of money arent thrown around), Billy Clyde would need to want to leave UK. At this point, that simply does not seem to be the case.