Kentucky coach focused on NIT

Updated: March 22, 2009, 5:50 PM ET
Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie hears all the talk about his job being on the line. He simply tries to ignore it.

The second-year coach spent 10 minutes answering questions about his job status Sunday, one day before the Wildcats (21-13) travel to Creighton (27-7) for the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

Gillispie dismissed speculation he met with top university officials Friday.

"I would say there have probably been a few rumors," he said. "I don't worry about it much. I worry about the things that I can control. And what we can control is how we prepare for Creighton."

Gillispie has one of the highest-profile jobs in college basketball as coach of the sport's winningest program.

"Shoot, I love it here," he said. "I love this place."

And it's a place that must adjust to the fact that the Wildcats are not in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years.

"Our guys are having fun and I'm having fun, and they're very determined to play," Gillispie said. "We'll just go out there and see what we can do."

"Unfortunately we didn't make the NCAA tournament like we all wanted to do," he added. "I think it hit hard when we weren't in there and that has forced us to mature dramatically. And it will pay dividends, if it hasn't paid dividends already."

When asked if he had learned anything as a coach by not making the NCAA tournament, Gillispie said he hadn't reflected on his time at Kentucky. He said he's concentrating only on Creighton, a school Kentucky last played in 1940.

Kentucky has been hurt by the diminished play of Jodie Meeks, whose shooting percentage has dropped the last few games, and sophomore forward Patrick Patterson. Gillispie said Meeks has been worn down by the stress of the season and opposing defenses, and opponents have toughened up on Patterson under the basket.

The Bluejays are led by senior guard Booker Woodfox, who averages 15.7 points.

"They're good in every area," Gillispie said. "They're a very sound team."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press