Commentary

Gillispie fired after just two seasons

Updated: March 28, 2009, 1:12 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

It didn't come as a big surprise when Kentucky announced a coaching change on Friday. The rumors had swirled for a couple of weeks now. Billy Gillispie was let go as coach of the Wildcats after just two seasons.

Kentucky missed the NCAA tournament this season, snapping a streak of 17 consecutive appearances. Gillipsie's dismissal was probably about more than just wins and losses.

Fans of big blue are the most passionate in the sport. A few of them go overboard, in my opinion, but for the most part they are great, great fans rooting for their program. I love calling a game at Rupp Arena and GameDay has been very special in Lexington.

The program has incredible resources, including amazing facilities than cost approximately $30 million.

I believe one issue which led to Gillispie's dismissal was the desire for his commitment to the community and boosters. That is not part of his personality and I feel that was a contributing factor in Friday's news.

To me, giving a coach only two years is unfair. You have to give him time to bring in his own players, to build his program. I feel a coach deserves at least four years to have a fair opportunity. That did not happen here.

Last season, Kentucky went 12-4 in conference play and made the NCAA tournament. This season's team, despite the presence of Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson, two of the most talented players in the SEC, fell short of expectations. The Wildcats lost in the NIT to Notre Dame a few days ago, ending a disappointing campaign.

Kentucky missed out on the SEC semifinals for back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1990 and '91.

Gillispie is a bright mind and will land elsewhere in due time. He built up programs at UTEP and Texas A&M before being hired at Kentucky. Trust me, he will get another opportunity and he will do well.

As for the future of the Wildcats, you can expect the big names to be mentioned in the rumor mill. High-profile guys like Billy Donovan and John Calipari will be prominently listed on the radar. If neither of them end up in Lexington, the next name you can expect to hear is former Wildcats player Travis Ford, the current coach of Oklahoma State. Names like Jay Wright of Villanova and Rick Barnes of Texas have been mentioned as well.

This soap opera in Lexington is under way!

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.