Our new best friend Susan Shan got a chance to talk to our old best friend Joe Crawford on the phone the other day, and she does a great job writing the story up. Joe talks about pretty much his entire career, from high school to signing a summer contract with the Kings, but what sticks out the most is the way Joe talks about his time at Kentucky.
It’s clear Joe will always have a special place in his heart for the bluegrass state, and he references that when he talks about being tempted to transfer during his freshman season. However, what struck me as the most interesting, was the way he gave credit to Gillispie for giving him what he always wanted.
The relationship with Gillispie was rocky from the start. Gillispie’s philosophy was to push a player as far as possible without breaking him in order to strengthen his mental and physical toughness. “He tried to get the most out of us so he put us through a lot. He had to know that you were with him.”
It was almost like a test. Gillispie brought Crawford off the bench in several games and even benched him at times in order to motivate him. It worked. “At about the middle part of the season, he [Gillispie] just let me play, and that’s all I asked for,” Crawford said. “All I ever wanted from a coach at Kentucky was to just let me play.”
As fans of the program, it was easy to forget that Billy Gillispie wasn’t the demon we made him out to be in our heads. While he certainly had a lot of questionable practices (like losing to Georgia on Senior Day,) he was still a coach at Kentucky. He brought us some good times, and it’s clear that at least Joe Crawford found his intensity helpful as he built a work ethic that will get him in the NBA one day.
And who could forget, without Gillispie, we likely wouldn’t have Cal right now.
Check out the interview in full here, and cross your fingers that a Crawford/Boogie combo is in the works.