Yeager: Right hire, right time

If any coach is the solution to Texas Tech's basketball problems and the
perfect fit for its program, it has to be Billy Clyde Gillispie. The 2011
basketball Red Raiders, much like the 2002 UTEP Miners and the 2004 Texas A&M
Aggies, are a team entombed in terrible doldrums, and in desperate need of
rejuvenation. Gillispie worked rapid wonders in El Paso and College Station,
turning the Aggie and Miner programs around at light speed. Nobody in the Tech
camp would reject a similar performance in Lubbock.
And besides, his name is Billy Clyde, a moniker that fits Texas Tech like a
rumpled Resistol on a cotton farmer plowing the back 40 outside of Fluvanna.
Leaving aside his great name and the fact that he hails from down the road in
Abilene, Gillispie's resume is enough to make Miracle Max envious. Here are some
of the more interesting highlights:
• As an assistant for Harry Miller, Gillispie helped Baylor reel in a national
top 10 recruiting class in 1996.
• While an assistant for Bill Self at Illinois, Gillispie was
instrumental in signing a national top 10 recruiting class in 2002.
• Despite his first UTEP squad finishing 6-24, Gillispie managed to bring a
national top 25 recruiting class to El Paso for the next season.
• Gillispie's 2003-04 squad authored the greatest attendance increase of any
NCAA team that year.
• Gillispie's 2004-05 Texas A&M team was only the third in college basketball
history to break even in conference play after going winless in conference the
year before.
• Gillispie's 2004-05 Aggie squad won 21 games, the most in school history since
the celebrated 1979-80 team that featured The Wall, which was comprised of Rynn
Wright, Rudy Woods, Vernon Smith and Claude Riley
• In 2004-05 Gillispie became the only coach in NCAA basketball history to lead
the two most improved teams in back-to-back seasons.
• In 2007 Gillispie's Aggie team became the first Big 12 South Division squad to
defeat the Kansas Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse. That team turned around and
defeated the No.25 Texas Longhorns less than two days later.
Obviously, Billie Clyde Gillispie can flat out gitter dunn on the hardwood. But
he's not just a turnaround artist with a good eye for the x's and o's. Gillispie
can spot talent, recruit it and develop it. Additionally, he coaches a fiery,
entertaining form of basketball that not only piques the interest of stellar
recruits, but also packs in the fans. Given the atrocious attendance at Tech
basketball games last season, Gillispie's ability to put his program on the
local entertainment map is of key importance.
Should Gillispie become Tech's next men's basketball coach he will certainly
have his work cut out for him. He will attempt to revive a team that went 13-19
this past season and loses its top four scorers.
And building blocks, it must be said, look to be fairly scarce. The 2011-12 Red
Raiders will welcome back Robert Lewandowski, an experienced post
player who shot over 55 percent from the field a year ago, wing man
Jaye Crockett who is athletic and plays above the rim, and Mike Davis,
a scrappy defender and rebounder who is capable of being a "glue" type of
player. In addition to that trio, Utah transfer Marshall Henderson will
enter the fold. He's a stone scorer who will bring some serious attitude to the
team, for better or worse.
Gillispie can also thank departing coach Pat Knight for signing three players
who could help immediately. Point guard Kevin Wagner is a remarkable
player, while two guard Toddrick Gotcher and small forward
Terran Petteway should be good enough to provide some solid depth in their
freshman seasons.
That's not a massive fund of talent and experience, but if Billy Gillispie's
track record is any indicator, it might be more than enough.