Billy Gillispie draws Tech players' ire
Updated: August 31, 2012, 1:04 PM ET
By Andy Katz
and Jason King
Texas Tech players expressed concern about the way they are being treated by second-year coach Billy Gillispie during a meeting with athletic director Kirby Hocutt this week, multiple players told ESPN.com.
The players were initially called to meet individually with members of the compliance department about the number of hours they were being asked to practice.
Shane Keyser/Getty ImagesTexas Tech, as news surfaced that players had voiced concern about the way they're being treated by Billy Gillispie, said the second-year coach had been hospitalized.
After the meeting with the compliance officials, the players met with Hocutt as a group.
Associate athletics director Blayne Beal, who is in charge of communications, confirmed that the meeting took place with Hocutt and the returning players. Beal also said the school was informed early Friday morning that Gillispie was hospitalized in Lubbock. Beal said he didn't know why he was hospitalized and had no further details on his condition.
Compliance officer Jennifer Brashear declined to comment.
Gillispie didn't return a call or a text message seeking a response.
Beal and Hocutt met Friday to discuss the matter with the players and issued this statement through Beal:
"We are aware and are looking into concerns within the leadership of our men's basketball program. Student-athlete well-being is our top priority and a matter that we take extremely seriously at Texas Tech. Texas Tech is devoting its full resources to look into this matter.'' Hired in March of 2011 to replace Pat Knight, Gillispie went just 8-23 overall and 1-17 in the Big 12 in his first season in Lubbock.
He was previously the head coach at Kentucky, Texas A&M and Texas-El Paso and a former assistant under Bill Self at Tulsa and Illinois.
"Compliance wanted to know what's going on,'' said one returning player who requested that his name not be used. "(The meeting) was about a lot of stuff that goes on in practice, everything within the program, the way we're being coached, the relationship we've got with our coach, practice hours and stuff like that.''
The player said that Gillispie is a "good coach, teacher and mentor, but he's not the most personable person, not the coach you can go and talk to. He breaks you down. But he doesn't build you back up. It's hard to play for him when that happens every day. You feel like you're getting torn down and you can't get back up.''
The player said there were a lot of "mental games'' being played.
“ The feeling is that some guys will leave if (Gillispie) stays, maybe some of the new guys or some of the old guys. We all have to talk to our families first.
” -- Texas Tech player who wished
to remain anonymous
"The meeting was in his office,'' a second player said. "He had no idea what was going on. When some of the players told him, he said he was going to try and make it best for us and enjoy the career that we have at Tech. The feeling is that some guys will leave if (Gillispie) stays, maybe some of the new guys or some of the old guys. We all have to talk to our families first.''
The first player said none of the Red Raiders talked about transferring during the meeting with Hocutt or made demands about Gillispie's job status.
The second player said that the players "really like the assistant coaches.''
Gillispie's top assistants are Chris Walker, Jeremy Cox and Bubba Jennings.
Texas Tech has experienced a high amount of attrition since the end of Gillispie's first season, as six players from the 2011-12 roster have transferred: Cameron Forte
, DeShon Minnis
, Jaron Nash
, Terran Petteway
, Kevin Wagner
and Javarez Willis
As many as nine new scholarship players will be on Texas Tech's roster this season.
This isn't the first time players have complained about the way they were coached by Gillispie.
Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Gillispie "wasn't the right fit" for the program when he fired him after just two seasons in 2009. Gillispie had been named SEC Coach of the Year one year earlier but failed to lead the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament the following season.
After his dismissal at Kentucky, stories began to surface about Gillispie's "tough love" coaching tactics. Former Wildcat Josh Harrellson said Gillispie once became so angered that he instructed him to sit in a bathroom stall during a halftime talk at Vanderbilt and then ordered him to ride back to Lexington in the Kentucky equipment truck. There were also complaints about the way Gillispie treated athletic department office types such as secretaries and other administrators.
Gillispie and Kentucky reached a settlement on his firing for $3 million in October of 2009. Gillispie had sued the school for a breach of contract after he was fired following two years on the job. Gillispie wanted $6 million owed to him but took the $3 million in the deal. He was 40-27 during his tenure at UK but never signed his contract and worked under a memorandum of understanding. He was fired with four years left on his contract.
Five months after his firing, Gillispie was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky -- his third DUI arrest since 1999. One month later he checked into the John Lucas After Care Program in Houston.
"Billy isn't an alcoholic," Lucas said after Gillispie completed the program. "He was just making some bad choices."
Instead of coaching, Gillispie spent the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons working for charitable organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Boys and Girls Club. He also spent time in his hometown of Graford, Texas caring for his mother, Winfred, who succumbed to lung cancer in 2011.
Gillispie said his two years away from the game was much-needed.
"I was able to step back and take a deep breath," Gillispie said in March of 2011, the same month he was hired at Texas Tech. "I went from being a high school coach in 1993 to the top of the college basketball mountain in 15 years. It was a meteoric rise. I never took time off because it never felt like work."
Indeed, before his struggles at Kentucky, Gillispie had quickly garnered a reputation as one of the top coaches in all of college basketball.
One season after finishing 6-24, Gillispie led UTEP to a 24-8 record in 2003-04. The 18-win improvement was the biggest in the history of college basketball.
Gillispie's success at UTEP prompted his hiring at Texas A&M in 2004. In his first season he guided a team that was picked to finish last in Big 12 play to a 21-10 overall record and an 8-8 mark in league games. Gillispie was named Big 12 Coach of the Year. He won the award again two seasons later, when the Aggies placed second in the Big 12 before reaching the Sweet 16.
Gillispie left for Kentucky after the season and has had a tough time ever since. He was among a handful of coaches who lost millions to a Ponzi scheme by former AAU basketball operator David Salinas, who committed suicide last summer. Sports Illustrated reported that Gillispie invested $2.3 million in corporate bonds.
Gillispie's Texas roots and recruiting ties made him seem like a natural fit at Texas Tech, where he signed a five-year contract worth an estimated $800,000-plus per year, according to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. Gillispie was the first major hire at Texas Tech for Hocutt, who came to Lubbock in February of 2011 after serving as the AD at Miami (Fla.) and Ohio University.