BASKETBALL: Wildcats Adjust To Gillispie

FAYETTEVILLE — Lost amidst the other story lines — mainly John Pelphrey's return to Kentucky — is one juicy element of Arkansas' 1 p.m. game today at Kentucky. Don't forget, Pelphrey only became the Razorbacks' basketball coach after a handful of others declined and after Creighton coach Dana Altman stayed for just 24 hours.

The first man who got a crack at the job? Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie, a fact that surely won't be forgotten anytime soon by Arkansas fans. Through a friend, Gillispie had made his interest in the Arkansas job well-known to someone close to former Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles. This was long before Stan Heath was even fired.

Gillispie didn't realize the Kentucky job would open up, though, And when it did, he wouldn't even return Broyles' phone calls.

During the first part of this season, the former Texas-El Paso and Texas A&M coach may have wondered why he didn't come to Fayetteville then. The Wildcats went 6-7 in nonconference play, losing inexplicably to mid-major Gardner-Webb and San Diego in Rupp Arena, and fans already were restless.

But once their conference schedule began, the Wildcats quickly grew comfortable with Gillispie's in-your-face coaching style and philosophies. They knocked off Tennessee, handing the No. 2 Volunteers their only loss, and bring an 8-3 SEC mark into today's game.

Arkansas center Steven Hill said he saw similarities between the Razorbacks and Wildcats as far as adjusting to first-year coaches.

"It's taken us a while, too," Hill said. "There are all sorts of things you have to get used to. The change in style was probably the hardest. As the year has gone along, both teams have improved with feeling comfortable with the style of play of each coach."

Gillispie was asked Thursday on the SEC basketball coach teleconference whether he had given any thought this week to his flirtation with the Arkansas job. Gillispie said it wasn't an issue.

He also stated he believed Pelphrey's return to Kentucky wouldn't affect the Hogs' coach.

"It won't be (distraction) for us," Gillispie said. "I'm sure John will say the same thing. The teams are going to play, and that's what it's going to be about."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories