Friday, April 06, 2007

Lexington's Two Weeks Of Anxiety Are Over.

The University of Kentucky was lucky to land Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie to fill the void when both Gator coach Billy Donovan and Texas' Rick Barnes said no to the idea replacing Tubby Smith, who got smart and bailed for the frozen North and the Big 10. Problem is, Lexington will still think it isn't enough if he happens to make the Sweet 16 next year. I don't doubt Billy Clyde's coaching bonafides -- anyone who can take a team that had gone 0-16 in conference play and over several years, get them to the 16, is a damn good coach, but he's in for pressure like he wouldn't believe.

It's all because UK refuses to believe that its job has lost its luster over the years; some of that is utterly beyond the university's control, but the inability of the school and its boosters to realize this is going to hamper anyone they bring in. (I'm not saying they have to admit that in public. Just keep the expectations a bit lower.) With mid-majors becoming more competitive and the parity from the one-and-done rule (and students skipping college before that), the old-school glamour jobs in college basketball just aren't what they used to be -- we're seeing this in football, too, to an extent. UK can't throw around its history and steal the best coach in the land, because they're no longer tops in their own conference; a victim of the changing nature of the college game.

Why anyone thought Billy Donovan was going to leave Gainesville is a mystery. Donovan is the coach who has defined Gator basketball. If he stays for the rest of his career and wins another championship along the way with a brand new squad, he will be linked with the Gators like Dean Smith is with the Tar Heels; like both of the Big East Jims (Calhoun and Boeheim) are linked with UConn and Syracuse; like Mike Krzyzewski is with Duke. That's too much to let go of, and Donovan knew it. That's a college basketball legacy that writers and historians will speak of with reverence. You don't ditch that. If Donovan stays a few more years and jumps to the NBA, then at worst, he will be the basketball Steve Spurrier, and with the way the OBC is still revered, that's not too bad a place to be either.

As for UK's interest in Rick Barnes, I can't explain it at all. It's as if they didn't watch a game Texas played last year, where Barnes failed miserably at finding ways to use Kevin Durant effectively by routing the ball through him instead of having D.J. Augustin slash for an entire second half.

Gillispie could continue to build a program at A&M, but this makes the most sense for both involved -- his star player is graduating, and the team won't be quite as competitive with Kansas and Texas next year (if Durant stays, that is.) But he'd better be able to deal with calls for his head after one season. Maybe if he can get Ashley Judd on his side early on, it'll help.


Mini Me said...

I think Gillispie will do great at Kentucky. But give him a few years to re-build the program. If he doesn't do great his first year, don't go too crazy.

Signal to Noise said...

I'm optimistic about Gillispie. I just hope Kentucky and their boosters will give him the time he needs to start from scratch, because they need to.