They say all publicity is good publicity and I for one generally believe that to be true. But whether you agree or disagree, it is clear that Billy Clyde certainly got a lot of attention for his halftime interview on Tuesday. If you havent seen it (and surely you have), here it is:
Now objectively speaking, if it wasnt the coach of Kentucky, I think we would all think that the entire situation was pretty hilarious. And those folks that arent fans of Kentucky seem to agree, as seen by the nation of blog’s reactions:
Generally speaking the reaction to Gillispie’s reaction has been universal. Most everyone outside of the Bluegrass thinks Gillispie acted poorly. And I believe that the general feeling is correct. Look, we all know that those sideline interviews are silly, pointless and really have no place in the game. BUT, they are a part of American sports now, no matter how much we wish them eradicated. The day that we made Erin Andrews a national celebrity is the day that we sacrificed the ability to end the ridiculous practice and instead, we find ourselves with more interviews and sillier questions.
Now as for Jeanine Edwards’ question, yeah it was hokey and maybe it was stupid. But let me ask you this…..if you are honest with yourself, at halftime did you or did you not think, “well Jodie Meeks is going to have to get on track or its going to be hard for us to win this game.” I know I certainly had that thought….the radio and tv announcers made that comment numerous times. I received approximately 50 text messages from frustrated fans, all of whom were either (a) complaining about Liggins or Harris, (b) making jokes about Andy Kennedy’s wife or (c) wondering what was wrong with Meeks. Since the first two questions would have probably made Gillispie even more frustrated, it isnt surprising that Edwards asked about the third. The Cats were up two to a team that had led most of the game and had no business playing UK close….and during that whole time, Jodie Meeks, a favorite for National Player of the Year, hadnt scored. That is the story of the game at that point.
But even if you dont believe that the question was a good one (and I can understand that view since virtually all sports chatter on television is inane), Gillispie’s reaction was still poor and embarrasing. Ask anyone who has been around Gillispie in the media room in the last couple of years and they all will have the same general thought. Coach Gillispie is a good guy with a lot of great qualities, but all too often, he acts like a bully when in a bad mood. Over the last couple of years, I have seen him do it to virtually every reporter that covers UK, including this blogger and it has become part of the gig. The first time it happened to me, I was embarrassed and wanted to hide under a rock…..and Larry Vaught came up to me and said, “dont worry about it, it happens to all of us.” This year I have seen it happen to others, and it can be difficult to watch. Gillispie is quick to label something a “bad question” or say that someone doesnt know what they are talking about and to do it with the same mock smile that Edwards got on Tuesday night. Anyone who covers the team has seen that smile and reaction, and it is never fun. At this point, I can laugh it off and when it happened to me earlier this year (with the infamous plus/minus question), Coach and I actually even laughed together about it later that day. But not everyone handles criticism as well (run a blog and you get used to it) and some definitely take it personal.
Part of the reason this story has legs is that there isnt a lot of news out there right now and part of the reason is that this is Kentucky and we focus on everything about the basketball team exponentially more than any other program. But part of it is also because this is a pattern that has happened to much. In many ways, Billy Gillispie is a great guy and a wonderful ambassador for the program. He connects well with fans, he gets what the UK tradition is about and when in a good mood, he can be pleasant, playful and engaging. That Billy Gillispie is almost a perfect fit for the heavy chair in which he sits and that Billy Gillispie is a coach that Kentuckians correctly embrace. The problem is when the other Billy Gillispie arises, the one that embarrasses a reporter on national television who is simply doing her job. That person is not the real Billy Clyde and here is hoping that we see that action less and less.