SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A Kentucky fan approached Wildcats forward
"Who's the Gipper?" Harris asked.
In Notre Dame lore, Fighting Irish football star
Wednesday, Gillispie sat behind a table and straightened his tie. If an agreement has already been reached -- as has been rumored -- Gillispie didn't let on. "You're asking the wrong guy," Gillispie said when asked about his job status. "All I know is to go to work, recruit, coach."
That attitude ultimately will be held against Gillispie. He hasn't embraced the celebrity of being Kentucky's basketball coach the way
Of course, none of this would have mattered had the Wildcats lost Thursday in the Sweet 16 instead of Wednesday in the NIT. Methods don't get called into question when the team wins. Nor do administrators and boosters worry about how a coach "fits" into the culture of the athletic department. They only worry when the team missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991.
The head football coach at Alabama faces a similar set of challenges as the head coach at Kentucky. Yet
Because Saban wins.
Gillispie is in this mess not because he was rude to ESPN sideline reporter
Earlier this month, Kentucky president
But Kentucky football fans don't expect much. They're fine with the Liberty Bowl, which is the football equivalent of the NIT quarterfinals. Kentucky basketball fans expect Final Fours and national championships. That's why Wednesday night the Cat's Pause, the Rivals.com site that covers Kentucky, said a record 13,500 logged on to its free message board. In that way, Kentucky hoops fans are more like the fans who called for the head of the crewcut-wearing coach sitting in the stands at the Joyce Center on Wednesday. Notre Dame football coach
Had Weis been fired, Notre Dame would have had to pay a monster buyout. It's not clear how much Kentucky would have to pay Gillispie, considering he has yet to sign his contract. Gillispie has worked off the Memorandum of Understanding he signed April 6, 2007. Gillispie's contract calls for a $6 million buyout if he is fired after his second season.
After the loss, Gillispie told his players to give the brutal truth if reporter asked them a question. No one ripped him. Even freshman guard
Gillispie built winners in his previous stops at UTEP and Texas A&M. He won or shared conference coach of the year honors five times. Despite having two of the nation's best players, Gillispie couldn't find a way to make Kentucky win this season.
If Gillispie gets canned, that's why. Forget all the other stuff. In the final analysis, his job was to win, and he didn't win enough. Wednesday, Gillispie said the only judgment that matters to him is the one he'll get from the big athletic director in the sky. "There's only one judgment I'll ever be concerned about," he said. "I hope I pass that judgment. I'm really proud that's the only judgment that's ever had a real effect on me. I hope I pass that one with flying colors."
As happy Notre Dame fans streamed out of the Joyce Center and headed for the Linebacker Lounge, Kentucky's pep band, cheerleaders and a few hundred die-hards remained. They all held one finger aloft. The band played
It sounded like a funeral dirge.