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Sports in Kentucky

Gillispie has lost his 'angel'



Seems a long time since Billy Clyde Gillispie’s teary happy-tobe here speech at Memorial Coliseum two spring-times ago. Safe to say Kentucky’s coach won’t be a nominee for Sports Person of the Year 2009.

For bellicose Billy Clyde, it was the year of the dust up. He barked or snapped at …

His players. Some pouted, some shrugged. None have left. Yet. Radio voice Tom Leach. Cawood’s successor can handle it. Helps ratings.

ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards. She needs time with Doris Burke.

South Carolina coach Darrin Horn. No hand-shake at Kentucky? No problem when you get a sweep.

Boss Mitch Barnhart. Not a good idea even with a memorandum of understanding.

Media herd. Healthy, adversarial. Reporters aren’t in a popularity business are they?

Last, a snappish volley at fans. Didn’t know public relations was part of his deal, Billy Clyde said. And doesn’t want to be a celebrity.


Then we can assume he has cleaned out the perks closet, right? Given up VIP seats for Derby Day, block of prime tickets for friends in Rupp Arena, country club membership, free lease automobile, and commercial monies gotten for hustling wares on television and sitting down with Rob Bromley once a week.

What’s happened to UK’s coach? Why has he handled it all so poorly?

Because he lost the angel on his shoulder. Bill Keightley.

Mr. Wildcat would have soothed his boss, counseled him to step back, take a deep breath, laugh at himself a little, and remember Kentuckians are losing jobs and homes while he’s an overpaid ball coach.

I believe Keightley would take the ball coach for a drive. Mountain Parkway to Campton, Bluegrass Parkway to Princeton, or US 25 to London and lunch at Weavers on Main Street.

Gillispie can’t be naive enough to believe UK’s Athletics Association pays his bills. Fans fill out ever more pricey season ticket forms, and a rights’ fee to buy them. Fans buy products to make Big Blue Network work.

Never insult fans, even Fellowship of the Miserable members who still wonder when Rick Pitino is coming back.

Some say Gillispie won’t change. He already has. Last year Alex Legion hit the road, this season DeAndre Liggins got 27 minutes one night after refusing to play. And A.J. Stewart got a second chance. There’s more, but this week, with tongue-incheek (sort of ), imagine how UK

Wise Men Past might advise Gillispie.

What they might say …

Adolph Rupp: “Now son, go down town and buy yourself a good Republican brown suit. Make sure a newspaper photographer knows you’re shopping. And remember, you can say anything you want to those media SOBs, long as you give ’em a laugh line once in awhile. But never ever aggravate the fans. Lemme remind you, son, I was here for 41 years and I won 876 games. Those boys of mine lost 190. The fans loved me and I deserved it.”

Joe B. Hall: “Billy, go home and put on some old Texas jeans. Lets go fishing. A fella’s mind clears when he’s sitting in a bass boat under a blue sky in Lyon County. And hey, on the way back we’ll stop at a fish place in Kuttawa and visit.”

Eddie Sutton: “Y’know, Billy, playin’ a zone now-and-then isn’t a bad thing.”

Rick Pitino: “For heaven’s sake, Billy, go to spin school! And, talk a little faster. Kentucky fans think you’re smarter if you speed it up. And, press, Billy! Use your roster, man. Press ’em everywhere!”

Dr. Orlando Smith: “Billy, if you think winning is everything to UK fans and media, think again. It isn’t. My teams won 26 times a winter for 10 years, got to every Big Dance, won a title and my legacy is still 10-Loss Tubby. ”

Cawood Ledford: “Don’t fall in love with McDonalds’ All- American lists, Billy. Look closer at Kentucky kids, then look again. The list of home state kids doing well elsewhere is embarrassingly long.”

Bravo, Dr. Sachatello

University of Kentucky board of trustees rubber stamped President Lee Todd’s recommendation last week to raise student tuition another five per cent. Third increase since 2006. Nine per cent hikes in each of the last two years and doubledigit increases before that, according to The Courier-Journal.

Parents enrolling a freshman at UK this fall will pay more than $4,000 per semester. Tuition. The gap between can and cannot afford college widens.

Three board members opposed Todd’s recommendation. My favorite was retired UK professor of surgery Dr. Charles Sachatello who had the audacity to suggest trustees auction their football and basketball game tickets to raise money for scholarships. And, he suggested to the Louisville newspaper, university administrators senior faculty and trustees ought to accept salary cuts.

First in line to take one for the team should be Todd, followed closely by ball coaches, Mitch Barnhart and other athletic officials.

And so it goes. You can reach Bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com

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