Friday , Apr , 06 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Gillispie leaves A&M for Kentucky

Lexington, KY (Sports Network) – Kentucky’s search for a men’s basketball
coach ended Friday when Billy Gillispie agreed to leave Texas A&M to take over
the storied Wildcats program.

Gillispie was introduced at a press conference Friday afternoon, becoming the
21st coach in Kentucky history and just the sixth in the last 76 years. He has
agreed to a seven-year deal with a salary of $2.3 million per season.

“When you talk about wanting to be a basketball coach, you never even think a
situation such as this is possible,” Gillispie said Friday. “Through hard
work, dedication and luck I’m sitting here today as the head coach at the best
position you can ever have in college basketball.”

Just last week, Gillispie agreed to a new contract with Texas A&M, a package
worth $1.75 million through March 2015. However, he apparently never signed
the deal.

Gillispie had been rumored to be in the running for the Kentucky job, which
became vacant when Tubby Smith left to take over at Minnesota. However, the
Wildcats had set their sights on Florida’s Billy Donovan, who apparently never
really gave serious consideration to the opening and on Thursday announced his
decision to remain with the Gators.

Texas’ Rick Barnes was also reportedly on Kentucky’s wish list, but he too
said Thursday he would stay with the Longhorns.

Gillispie then became the top choice after turning around a Texas A&M program
that had long been dormant.

In three years with the Aggies, Gillispie guided the team to a record of 70-26
with a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. A&M was 27-7 this past season,
earning the most wins in school history, and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA
Tournament for the first time since 1980. The Aggies beat Penn and Louisville
before falling to Memphis by one point in the regional semifinal.

Texas A&M finished with a 13-3 conference mark, one game behind regular-season
champion Kansas, for its highest-ever finish in Big 12 history.

Gillispie came to Texas A&M off a season in which he led UTEP to one of the
best turnarounds in college basketball history. UTEP went from losing 24 games
during the 2002-03 season to winning 24 in the following campaign, Gillispie’s
second at the helm.

In five seasons as a collegiate head coach, Gillispie owns a record of 100-58.

“When we started this process, we sort of had an M.O. of all the coaches at
Kentucky that we have,” said Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart. “They
are people who are tireless workers, great recruiters, well-organized,
passionate about their craft, dedicated to making Kentucky better and they’re
concerned for the student-athletes. Those were the things that were important
to us in this process. Having said that, we found the guy that matches those
qualities in Billy Gillispie.”

Kentucky, by its lofty standards, has fallen on hard times. Despite making the
NCAA Tournament in each of Smith’s 10 seasons at the helm, the Wildcats had
not earned a Final Four trip since his first year when the school won the
1997-98 national championship.

Smith compiled a record of 263-83 at Kentucky. The Wildcats advanced to the
Elite Eight four times during his tenure, but were bounced from the tournament
in the second round in each of the last two years.

This past season, Kentucky ended the year with a 22-12 record and lost seven
of its last 11 games overall. The Wildcats’ season came to an end with a loss
to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 18.