Wildcats Hire "Billy the Man"

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A makeshift stage and blue pom poms were in place for UK fans at Memorial Coliseum, and with the sounds of Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" blared over the speakers many excited students eagerly awaited the beginning of a pep rally and introductory press conference for the new Wildcat Coach Billy Gillispie.

A University of Kentucky Athletic Department spokesman confirmed Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie has been hired as the Wildcats' basketball coach. Athletic Department spokesman Scott Stricklin confirmed Gillispie's hiring would be announced at the 12:15 p.m. EDT pep rally and 12:45 p.m. news conference.

Gillispie becomes Kentucky's sixth coach in the last 76 years. The former Texas A&M coach will succeed Tubby Smith, who spent a decade in the glare of the sport's brightest spotlight before bolting to Minnesota.

The Wildcats turned to Gillispie after another Billy, Florida's Billy Donovan, decided to stay with the Gators.

"If Billy the Kid would have come, that would have been great, but we got Billy the Man," said senior Matthew Harned of Frankfort, Ky.

Gillispie led the Aggies to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980, and when asked how Gillispie will do in his first season with UK, Harned's answer was pure Big Blue Nation.

"I think the Sweet 16 will be OK. I don't think he'll win a national championship. Tubby did his first season and that's what got him in trouble."

Many share Harned's excitement about the future of UK basketball, but before the hiring of a new coach at UK can become final, the UK Athletics Board must apply its stamp of approval. The board has scheduled a 2 p.m. special meeting this afternoon. The board is meeting on the women's practice floor of the Joe Craft Center (behind Memorial Coliseum) on campus.


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