Fact or Fiction - Is Gillispie A Possibility?

In the never-ending, always-expanding list of candidates for the now-vacant IU coaching job, the latest name to jettison up to the top of the charts is second-year Texas A&M Coach Billy Gillispie. But does it in fact belong up there?

In the never-ending, always-expanding list of candidates for the now-vacant IU coaching job, the latest name to jettison up to the top of the charts is second-year Texas A&M Coach Billy Gillispie.

Gillispie recently completed his second season at the helm of the Aggie program, leading the Big 12 school to a 22-9 record and within a whisker of the Sweet 16. Texas A&M's bid for advance to the third round was ended Saturday when LSU's Darrel Mitchell hit a 3-pointer with :03.9 remaining to give the Tigers a 58-57 win in Jacksonville, Fla.

Despite the heartbreaking setback, the 46-year-old Gillispie is one of the hot coaching names these days thanks to the miraculous turnarounds he's orchestrated at both Texas A&M and UTEP. A former assistant coach at Tulsa and Illinois under Bill Self, Gillispie took over the UTEP program in 2002-03, going 6-24 his first season. His second season, though, featured an 18-win improvement as UTEP went 24-8, won the WAC title, and earned an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Gillispie was selected the WAC Coach of the Year.

Gillispie parlayed that two-year run into his current job in the Big 12. He once again enjoyed great success, leading a team that was 7-21 the season before (0-16 in the Big 12) and picked to finish last in the conference to a 21-10 overall record and an 8-8 mark in his debut season. The Aggies earned an invite to the NIT – the school's first postseason bid of any kind in 11 years – and advanced to the third round. Gillispie was honored as the Big 12 Coach of the Year, marking his second straight conference coach of the year honor.

Texas A&M took another big step this season, going 22-9 overall and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA trip was the school's first in 19 years, and its first-round win over Syracuse was the program's first tourney win in 26 seasons. Other season highlights included a 9-0 start and wins over the likes of Oklahoma State and Texas.

Gillispie's teams are known for their hard-nosed defense and unselfish play. This year's team surrendered only 60.3 points/game and allowed team to shoot only 41.1 percent from the floor. He's also considered a disciplinarian, someone who will sit players if he's unhappy with their attitude and/or effort in practice.

What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: During the last three years he's earned a pair of NCAA tourney berths, garnered two conference coach of the year honors, and gone a combined 67-27 at a couple of schools that were conference whipping boys before his arrival. Compare that to Indiana, which was just 48-41 during the last three seasons with one NCAA at-large berth. If Gillispie is capable of that sort of success at programs that have generally been considered college basketball afterthoughts, imagine what he could do at a program that is among the most storied in college basketball history? Those close to Gillispie have suggested he'd leave Texas A&M for the right situation, one where he could catapult himself into a limelight at a program where he could compete for national championships. Most concur that Indiana is that sort of place.

What Makes Him a Longshot: Don't be snookered into thinking his two-year stint as an assistant at Illinois gives him the Midwestern roots Greenspan is likely looking for. He was born in Abiline, Texas, and is a graduate of Southwest Texas State. After graduating from Southwest Texas State in 1983, he spent two years as a graduate assistant there before coaching at the high school level in the Lone Star State until 1993. His first full-time assistant coaching job was at Baylor from 1994-97, and other than his five years with Self (Tulsa – 1998-00; Illinois 2001-02) his entire coaching career has been spent in Texas. Even during his eight years as an assistant he spent much of his time recruiting the state, helping lure 24 players from eight different states – but nearly half (11) were from Texas. While there's nothing wrong with being able to recruit one of the nation's most fertile basketball states, No. 1 in Greenspan's mind is being able to recruit Indiana. Gillispie has never done that.

HoosierNation.com's Take: While Gillispie has been a rumored candidate for some time, things really exploded once CBS Sportline's Gregg Doyel said he was hearing IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan's interest had been piqued by Gillispie. Mind you, Doyel's two cents on the IU job thus far have been little more than non-sense. He had Golden State Coach Mike Montgomery interested one day, and the next the NBA coach said he had so such interest. Doyel's next Hail Mary was that Isiah Thomas was a legitimate candidate for the job. That ranked up there with the more laughable suggestions, but it got people talking nonetheless. Gillispie is a little more plausible considering his recent run of success, but a slam dunk he is not with his Texas roots. Texas A&M won't let him go without a fight either. After last year's NIT trip he received a $300,000 raise to $930,000 guaranteed, and he figures to get a salary boost again in the coming weeks after this year's success.

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