Fans should stop playing coach, let Gillispie do his job

Column by Zach Hester

I’m eating Corn Pops, drinking a PBR and in hindsight, I’ve outcoached Billy Gillispie, Tubby Smith and Rick Pitino for some 15-odd seasons now. I sit high on my throne of Lazyboy recliners and am a shoe-in for the Armchair-Coaches Hall-of-Fame. I had the game plan to stop Marcus Camby in ‘96; I foresaw Bogan’s ankle injury before the infamous Dwayne Wade showdown in ‘03, and of course, I’ve been screaming for Galloway’s start all season — yes, since before the Florida game.

The same can probably be said for every other adamant Kentucky fan that lingers around the Bluegrass state. This is becoming a problem.

A year-and-a-half into Gillispie’s term as commander in chief on the hardwood, it’s becoming pretty clear to me that as long as we have a coach — not named Adolph Rupp or Rick Pitino — the fans will have discrepancies in how we feel the team should be ran.

Due to our storied past, the definition of success for a Kentucky fan is elevated above that of the fair-weather goers from a lesser program — Louisville, for example. A Sweet Sixteen season is not successful. We don’t hang banners for Elite Eight appearances. And a Final Four is nearly as cool as a Helms Trophy. I cried in ‘97.

If I know one thing, I know a honeymoon in sports doesn’t last.

A year-and-a-half ago — for whatever reason — Barnhart decided to hire a coach with some backbone. I’m not quite sure what he was thinking; a coach who doesn’t hang on the whim of every fan’s yearnings, a coach who ignores the popular message board banter. It’s these kinds of character flaws that already have so many fans up in arms about Coach Gillispie. Whether talking about Gillispie’s short comings as a half time interviewee or his erratic substitution patterns, fans are finding themselves in ample supply of rabble-rousing material.

It’s important to realize that Kentucky fans are unique in their understanding of the game — we know it as well as, if not better than, coaches paid to teach the art. Our understanding of basketball is equaled by our passion for success. And combining the two has skewed our expectations into the realm of tomfoolery. Every fan thinks they have the answer to solve our problems. Even worse, every fan lets it be known they have the answer.

Gillispie is not two full seasons into this rebuilding tenure, and some fans are already calling for his head — not because of wins or losses; simply because they don’t understand every move the program undergoes to further its renaissance. To expect even to understand the strategy, psyche, or thought progression that leads up to even the most minute details of Gillispie’s game plan at this point in his stay at the university is ambitious to say the least. We fans need to get a grip.

So, next time you’re sitting around a television monitor screaming at the tube because your favorite new recruit isn’t in the game, sit back, take a deep breath, have another sip of PBR, relax, maybe have some Corn Pops, and let the coach do his thing. Because we’re not paid enough to stress out, and more importantly, no one cares that we are.