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March 20, 2011

Yeager: Right hire, right time

If any coach is the solution to Texas Tech's basketball problems and the perfect fit for its program, it has to be Billy Clyde Gillispie. The 2011 basketball Red Raiders, much like the 2002 UTEP Miners and the 2004 Texas A&M Aggies, are a team entombed in terrible doldrums, and in desperate need of rejuvenation. Gillispie worked rapid wonders in El Paso and College Station, turning the Aggie and Miner programs around at light speed. Nobody in the Tech camp would reject a similar performance in Lubbock.

And besides, his name is Billy Clyde, a moniker that fits Texas Tech like a rumpled Resistol on a cotton farmer plowing the back 40 outside of Fluvanna.

Leaving aside his great name and the fact that he hails from down the road in Abilene, Gillispie's resume is enough to make Miracle Max envious. Here are some of the more interesting highlights:

As an assistant for Harry Miller, Gillispie helped Baylor reel in a national top 10 recruiting class in 1996.

While an assistant for Bill Self at Illinois, Gillispie was instrumental in signing a national top 10 recruiting class in 2002.

Despite his first UTEP squad finishing 6-24, Gillispie managed to bring a national top 25 recruiting class to El Paso for the next season.

Gillispie's 2003-04 squad authored the greatest attendance increase of any NCAA team that year.

Gillispie's 2004-05 Texas A&M team was only the third in college basketball history to break even in conference play after going winless in conference the year before.

Gillispie's 2004-05 Aggie squad won 21 games, the most in school history since the celebrated 1979-80 team that featured The Wall, which was comprised of Rynn Wright, Rudy Woods, Vernon Smith and Claude Riley

In 2004-05 Gillispie became the only coach in NCAA basketball history to lead the two most improved teams in back-to-back seasons.

In 2007 Gillispie's Aggie team became the first Big 12 South Division squad to defeat the Kansas Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse. That team turned around and defeated the No.25 Texas Longhorns less than two days later.

Obviously, Billie Clyde Gillispie can flat out gitter dunn on the hardwood. But he's not just a turnaround artist with a good eye for the x's and o's. Gillispie can spot talent, recruit it and develop it. Additionally, he coaches a fiery, entertaining form of basketball that not only piques the interest of stellar recruits, but also packs in the fans. Given the atrocious attendance at Tech basketball games last season, Gillispie's ability to put his program on the local entertainment map is of key importance.

Should Gillispie become Tech's next men's basketball coach he will certainly have his work cut out for him. He will attempt to revive a team that went 13-19 this past season and loses its top four scorers.

And building blocks, it must be said, look to be fairly scarce. The 2011-12 Red Raiders will welcome back Robert Lewandowski, an experienced post player who shot over 55 percent from the field a year ago, wing man Jaye Crockett who is athletic and plays above the rim, and Mike Davis, a scrappy defender and rebounder who is capable of being a "glue" type of player. In addition to that trio, Utah transfer Marshall Henderson will enter the fold. He's a stone scorer who will bring some serious attitude to the team, for better or worse.

Gillispie can also thank departing coach Pat Knight for signing three players who could help immediately. Point guard Kevin Wagner is a remarkable player, while two guard Toddrick Gotcher and small forward Terran Petteway should be good enough to provide some solid depth in their freshman seasons.

That's not a massive fund of talent and experience, but if Billy Gillispie's track record is any indicator, it might be more than enough.



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