Following the 2003-2004 season, Gillispie was named head coach at Texas A&M, a program that struggled mightily over the years.
He inherited a team that had gone 7-21 the year before with an 0-16 mark in Big 12 play. The program had not had a winning season in 11 years.
The Aggies were picked to finish last in the rugged Big 12, but Gillispie was not about to let that happen. The Aggies exploded to a perfect 11-0 start and went on to finish 21-10, the biggest improvement in the country. Gillispie became the only coach in history to lead the most improved team in consecutive seasons.
A&M went 8-8 in Big 12 play, including victories against No. 9-ranked Texas and No. 25 Texas Tech. The Aggies won two games in the National Invitation Tournament, A&M's first postseason appearance in 11 years and its first postseason wins in 23 seasons.
As a result, Gillispie was the consensus selection as Big 12 Coach of the Year and was a finalist for national coach of the year honors for the season straight year. The United States Basketball Writers Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches named him district coach of the year and the Texas Association of basketball selected him as its college coach of the year.
Texas A&M improved again this season, finishing 22-9 overall and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament where the Aggies were defeated in the final seconds on a buzzer-beater by eventual Final Four member LSU. 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.
Gillispie is also already considered one of the nation's top recruiters. In his eight years as a Division I assistant, Gillispie helped recruit 24 players from eight different states, including 11 from Texas. Seventeen were high school standouts and seven were junior college products. His efforts on the recruiting trail helped Illinois land one of the nation's top 10 signing classes in 2002. The group featured Parade All-American Dee Brown, James Augustine, Aaron Spears, Deron Williams and Kyle Wilson.
Rivera was the 2003 National Junior College Player of the Year, while Thomas was the all-time leading scoring in junior college basketball and was the only JUCO player ever to score 2,000 points with 1,000 rebounds.
Last year's recruiting class at A&M was ranked among the nation's top 10 and included Eddie Smith, the 2005 National Junior College Player of the Year.
His main goal is winning, and his philosophies emphasize this. On the court, Gillispie will do whatever it takes to win. If he has to run a ball-control offense and play hard-nosed defense to win a grind-out game, he'll do that. If he can push tempo and play a fast-paced game, he can win that way as well, like he did at UTEP.
Gillispie is a proven winner, a relentless recruiter, he has an engaging personality, and is one of the rising stars in the coaching profession.
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: What's not to like about the man? His resume is outstanding, and he has all the crendentials to be considered, along with Villanova's Jay Wright, one of the emerging stars in his profession.
Young and ambitious, Gillispie has the ego necessary to coach at a high-profile program like NC State, and he just might relish, and not dread, the opportunity of being compared to Duke and North Carolina.
An appealing factor for Gillispie could be NC State's outstanding basketball facilities. Playing home games in the state-of-the-art RBC Center, and now with a brand-new practice facility, the Wolfpack has some of the finest facilities in college basketball. Although A&M is launching an effort to improve its basketball facilities, Gillispie has already expressed his concern with the current state.
Finally, there are unconfirmed reports that Gillispie's out in his contract would allow him to leave for an ACC school. If that is the case, NC State could be the opportunity he is apparently looking for.
Some believe Gillispie is looking for the right opportunity to coach at a "basketball school," and sources close to him have indicated he just might be interested in the vacant position at NC State.
What Makes Him a Longshot: Gillispie's roots are in Texas, there is no denying that. He was born in Abiline, Texas, and is a graduate of Southwest Texas State. After graduating from STSU in 1983, he spent two years as a graduate assistant there before coaching at the high school level in Texas until 1993. His first full-time assistant coaching job was at Baylor from 1994-97, and other than his five years with Bill Self, 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. Would he be willing to leave the Lone Star State?
His contract isn't too bad, but a recent addition could make him consider staying in College Station, Texas for the long haul. In late-March, Texas A&M announced that a $1 million bonus had been added to his contract, provided he stays at A&M for six more years. Therefore, at the end of his six-year contract, Gillispie would receive a $1 million dollar bonus on top of his annual salary for that season.
Gillispie currently makes $930,000 annually, supplemental payments and a housing allowance. He also is provided a vehicle by the university and other benefits. He is expected to receive a raise in the near future, and with him being a Texas man, the money and prestige of building Texas A&M into a basketball power could be enough to remain at the Big 12 school.
Pack Pride's Take: Gillispie is an intriguing candidate, and possibly the perfect candidate for NC State. He wants to compete for national championships, and will tell anybody that, and has the mindset necessary to compete at NC State. Should NC State strike out on Rick Barnes, Gillispie should definitely receive a phone call.
As one person close to the situation stated, "Billy is the type of guy who would be revered by NC State fans."
Texas A&M athletics contributed to this report