Gillispie Big 12 Coach of the Year

In one of the most memorable seasons in Aggie basketball history, Texas A&M's Billy Gillispie, in his first year coaching for the Aggies, was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Coach of the Year on Monday. Gillispie is the first Texas A&M coach to receive the award.

Texas A&M tied San Diego for the nation's top turnaround team, recording 12 more wins than they did a year ago. The Aggies also tied the NCAA mark for best turnaround with its eight-game conference improvement after failing to win a single Big 12 game last season. Texas A&M head coach Billy Gillispie set a school record for most wins by a first-year coach, surpassing Aggie coaching legend Shelby Metcalf, and has the Aggies one win away from their first 20-win campaign since 1986.

Gillispie inherited an Aggie team that lost six seniors from last season. The Aggies recorded a 7-21 overall and 0-16 in Big 12 mark in 2004. Texas A&M is 19-8 overall and 8-8 in Big 12 play, heading into the conference tournament. A&M is only the third team in history to win at least seven conference games after going winless the previous season in a league with at least 16 games.

The latest honor tops a list of recognition that Gillispie has received over the past few weeks. The Aggie head coach has been named as a finalist for the Naismith Award presented annually to the men's and women's college basketball coaches of the year. Last week, ESPN's Dick Vitale named Gillispie National Coach of the Week.

"We've had a great deal of real pleasant surprises ... but the biggest surprise to me is the way the fans have really come to us and accepted us and kind of taken us under their wing," Gillispie said. "I was hopeful we could get to that point someday. I definitely didn't think it would happen as quickly as it has happened. It's been a major, major, major surprise and has as much to do with any success we've had as anything we've done."

Prior to the season, Gillispie described his goals for his new team. "We just want to improve, play hard every game, practice hard every day, and learn to really like and care for each other," he said. "I don't really have any tangible goals. I want us to get better every day and I want our fans to get better every day. One of the biggest things we can achieve is for our guys to play hard and together. If that happens, we'll like the results at the end of the year as far as wins and losses."

Gillispie and his scrappy team have well exceeded all expectations.

The No. 7 seeded Aggies have high hopes heading into Big 12 tournament play as they face No. 10 seed Kansas State on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri.


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