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By David Schuh
Former UK players aren’t surprised by the accusations against their former head coach and current Texas Tech coach, Billy Gillispie, that continue to mount as members of the Red Raiders program come forward with new allegations.
Gillispie was hospitalized for apparent high-blood pressure last Friday, the same day he came under scrutiny for possible mistreatment of players, coaches and staff of the Texas Tech basketball team. According to ESPN, Gillispie was released from the hospital Thursday.
“If you look back at Kentucky compared to Texas Tech, it’s kind of a direct parallel,” former UK basketball player Mark Krebs said. “Long practices — he tears you down and doesn’t bring you back up. It’s kind of crazy some of the stuff he’s still doing there.”
Gillispie was fired after two underwhelming seasons as head coach in Lexington, both of which were reportedly filled with similar questionable treatment toward UK players.
Since Gillispie took the job in Lubbock in March 2011, 15 players have left, including Wannah Bail, a highly-touted recruit from the Bahamas who left after one summer school session. A source told CBSSports.com that “it had everything to do with Gillispie,” not academics, as had been suspected.
Others that have left, according to a CBSSports.com report, include a secretary, video coordinator, assistant coach, trainer, graduate assistant, student manager, academic adviser, two strength coaches and two directors of basketball operations.
“If this is true, put a nail in the coffin of his career,” former UK great Kenny Walker said. “Everything was kept a little more in-house here, but he shouldn’t be coaching anymore.”
CBS was told Gillispie routinely practiced the team over the 20 hours per week limit. A source said Kader Tapsoba, who sat out the majority of last season with stress fractures, suffered those fractures in each leg after a day of practice that lasted until about 9 p.m.
It was reported that Gillispie also offered assistant coaching jobs to two men, only to tell them days before they were to arrive that they were assistant strength positions that would pay half of what he originally stated.
Josh Harrellson said in 2009 that during a game at Vanderbilt, Gillispie made him spend the halftime break sitting in the bathroom stall. Gillispie then made him ride home on the equipment truck, separate from his teammates.
“Billy always had a military mentality as a coach,” Walker said. “But, there’s a fine line between being tough and being crazy.”
There are numerous complaints against the former Cats coach. All of that aside, many believe his coaching prowess is credible on a tactical level.
“He works really hard,” Krebs said. “He breaks down teams better than I’ve seen any coach do. I learned a great deal from him.”
The year before coming to UK, Gillispie led his Texas A&M team to the Sweet 16, beating Louisville in Rupp Arena on the way.
“I think he’s a better coach than what he’s shown,” Walker said. “He goes overboard to do it his way but it would be OK if he treated people a little better.”
Although, according to Krebs, the coach’s practices sometimes could create more problems than they solve.
“The only problem was, if you look back at our team, you would see how many injuries we had,” Krebs said. “Then if you look at some of the stuff they’re saying at Texas Tech, you can now see why some guys had stress fractures, broken bones, hip flexors, pulled muscles and all that stuff.”
For example, it was widely reported that Gillispie pressured Derrick Jasper, who played two years at UK before transferring to UNLV, into returning too soon after microfracture surgery his last season in Lexington.
“(Jodie) Meeks and (Patrick) Patterson are having great careers, but I think Jasper could have had a good pro career as well,” Walker said. “He was a player I had a lot of respect for.”
Another former UK player, Perry Stevenson, declined comment when contacted by the Kernel. Last Thursday, however, Stevenson tweeted: “I hope Texas Tech wasn’t expecting anything other than what they’re getting right now. I should’ve warned em … But it’s funnier this way lol.”
“People at Texas Tech obviously came out and voiced their displeasure,” Krebs said. “It was the same stuff at Kentucky, just that nobody came out and said it.”
Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told ESPN.com Wednesday night that he is concerned with recent information he has received.
“I issued a reprimand there would be no tolerance for further disregard for the rules and that’s the process we will continue to move forward with at Texas Tech,” he said.