Gillispie finalist for Naismith Award

In the midst of their NCAA tournament run, Texas A&M received word Friday that head coach Billy Gillispie is among four finalists for the Naismith Award, given each year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the nation's top college basketball coach.

Joining Gillispie on the final ballot is Washington State's Tony Bennett, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, and Georgetown's John Thompson III.

"It's exciting to see new coaches come along and achieve high levels of success at these programs," said Gary Stokan, Atlanta Tipoff Club president. "This display of coaching and leadership spells tremendous success for these teams."

The Naismith Award is arguably college basketball's most coveted award, presented annually to the men's and women's college basketball coaches of the year.

The Big 12 Conference's Coach of the Year has led the Aggies to 26 wins, tying a school record. A&M has been ranked in the top 13 all season and in the top 10 most of the season, climbing as high as No. 6 four separate times this season--the highest ranking in school history.

Texas A&M is making it's second consecutive NCAA appearance for the first time in school history and has achieved its third straight 20-win season for the first time, after finishing the season with a record 7-21 (0-16, Big 12) the year before Gillispie arrived.

Earlier this season, Gillispie was also named District 9 Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches for the second time in three years. District 9 includes all NCAA Division I schools in Texas and Arkansas. Gillispie also received the honor in 2004-05, his first season at A&M.

"No matter how much you try to not show your emotion outwardly, it's very difficulty for me. These guys have been so important to me personally. They've been so important to this community and this university. I don't know how you measure those kinds of things. It will probably continue to be looked at a very high esteem for a long time," said Gillispie after the Aggies' last home game of the season.

Texas A&M continues NCAA tournament play in the 2nd round on Saturday when they face the Louisville Cardinals in Lexington, Kentucky. Tip-off is set for 2:40 p.m. (CST) against


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