Gillispie, Pearl SEC Coaches of the Year

With a 6-7 record, and an RPI a dismal # 222 staggering into Southeastern Conference play, the recipe didn't sound great for an SEC Coach of the Year award. Somebody forgot to tell Billy Gillispie and his team, as a remarkable 12-4 SEC record caught the attention of fellow coaches who voted Gillispie and Tennessee's coach Bruce Pearl as SEC coaches of the year, the SEC announced today.

The top two finishers in the SEC East, # 1 Tennessee and # 2 Kentucky, also sport the title of co-coaches of the year. Bruce Pearl's Tennessee team won its first outright SEC championship since 1967, and Kentucky's unlikely run to a 12-4 2nd place finish was especially impressive, considering the beginning to Kentucky's season overcoming injuries suffered by the team. For the season, Kentucky has had starters or expected starters miss more than 30 full games already, and played injured in other games. Pearl and Gillispie received four votes each for coach of the year.

Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt and Rick Stansbury of Mississippi State each received two votes to complete the voting.

For Gillispie, the award is an incredible fifth consecutive coach of the year award he has earned--one in the WAC conference and three straight in the Big 12 Conference before this one in the Southeastern Conference. Gillispie is also a three-time finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award (2004, 2005 and 2007).

One of the most impressive things Gillispie has been able to do at his coaching stops is dramatic single season turnarounds. In Gillispie's second season at UTEP, his team bounced back from a 6-24 record his first season to a remarkable 24-8 mark, an astouding 18-game improvement from one year to the next.

Gillispie continued the type of work that earned him the label "Miracle Worker" by ESPN's Steve Lavin the next season by taking a Texas A&M team picked last in the conference to the nation's biggest turnaround again. Gillispie is the only coach in college basketball history to perform that task in two consecutive seasons.

If a season could be split in half, Gillispie may have accomplished the same thing this season at Kentucky. After the Cats first 15 games this season, they stood 7-8. In the next 14 games since then, the Cats have gone 11-3, likely the biggest improvement in college basketball since midseason.

AllWildcats Top Stories