If you can’t go home again, perhaps you never should have left.
That’s the overwhelming feeling about college hoops coach Billy Gillispie, who stepped down from his job at Texas Tech last week amidst a combination of personal health concerns, player allegations of mistreatment, and admitted minor NCAA violations of practice time restrictions.
Those are the concrete reasons why Gillispie, who was about to start his second season with the Raiders—after stints at the University of Kentucky, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at El Paso–is out of coaching once again. He also sat out two seasons before taking the Tech job.
But symbolically, as Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! wrote, Gillispie’s fall began when he decided to leave Texas, specifically College Station.
A Graford native, Gillispie was all about his home state, from his playing career (Ranger College, Sam Houston State) to his graduate assistant days (Southwest Texas State) to high school jobs in Copperas Cove and Killeen, among other places. Wrote Wetzel:
College Station was, quite unbelievably, the 10th Texas town he coached in, in addition to assistant jobs at Tulsa and Illinois.
He was a Texan through and through, known by everyone, liked by almost everyone, capable of recruiting the state like maybe no one ever before him. He was one of them, as down to earth as you could be.
Once the Texan with the golden touch, Gillispie was now an overbearing, uneven, push-too-hard ball of self-destruction.
According to Wetzel, even UTEP legend Don “The Bear” Haskins thought that Texas A&M would be Gillispie’s place:
Stay at A&M and win forever, Haskins kept telling him. You found your spot.
Which, for Miners fans, has got to be ironic, as some of them still think Gillispie never should have left El Paso.
That was certainly the storyline when Gillispie took over in 2002. In just his second season, Gillispie got the Miners back to the NCAA tournament, just as Haskins, who had coached UTEP from 1961 to 1999, did in fourteen of his seasons. That includes, of course, the historic 1966 national championship team, when the school was still called Texas Western–still the only time a Texas college team has won it all
I wrote about Gillispie for Texas Monthly in 2003, and even then, coming off a rookie season with a 6-24 record, excitement around the program was so great that during our interview, it