Right on Cue, Gillispie’s Defenders Tell The Other Side of the Story

Posted by dnspewak on September 10th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite staffer and an RTC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

Three days ago, the loss of Billy Gillispie‘s employment at Texas Tech seemed like a formality. On the heels of a series of articles from a local Lubbock newspaper, ESPN.com and CBS Sports — in which former and current players said he violated NCAA practice regulations and forced a player with a stress fracture to run stairs — it seemed he’d probably never coach college basketball again, especially in light of his “second chance” following the whole Kentucky fiasco. On Friday, I defended Gillispie’s right to tell his side of the story, arguing media reports had smeared him as he sat in a hospital without any way of responding to the accusations. No reporter had even attempted to write a balanced story, and Gary Parrish of CBS called for the school to fire Gillispie because “there’s no reason to believe” the allegations against him aren’t true. Since then, Deadspin has already reported the school will dismiss Gillispie, though no other outlet has confirmed that claim at this time. It’s bad, folks. Real bad.

So thank goodness for Jason King.

ESPN.com’s senior writer used his connections over the weekend to write a brilliant piece on the Gillispie situation, offering an entirely different side of the tale from the coach’s supporters. On Friday, I asked somebody to call Robert Lewandowski. Apparently, King already had: By Saturday, he appeared in King’s lead, and he stood behind Gillispie by describing him as a tough-love leader, not a madman. Former Texas A&M star Acie Law and forward Joseph Jones said the same thing about their former coach, as did Josh Harrellson (Kentucky) and Deron Williams, who signed at Illinois during Gillispie’s time as an assistant in Champaign. King also garnered a response from Bill Self, a former coaching partner of Gillispie’s, along with Texas Tech color commentator Andy Ellis, who serves as perhaps King’s strongest and most outspoken source. “Somebody needs to tell the other side of the story,” Ellis said.

The Coverage of Billy Gillispie Has Been One-Sided to Date

That’s all we’re asking for, and Jason King does a heck of a job doing just that. To be clear, he does not exactly exonerate Billy Gillispie. Ellis points out that former players would of course have a vendetta against Gillispie after transferring, but current players still met with the athletic director about their coach’s conduct and the situation is far from resolved. Lewandowski partly disputed the troubling tale of Kader Tapsboa crying as he ran stairs with a stress fracture, but he offered a fairly vague statement in an effort not to undermine his teammates. Gillispie still may have violated NCAA rules, but after King’s story, at least he’ll get a fair shake. The piece even led to a follow-up from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, shedding even more doubt on the matter.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Summer Update: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by dnspewak on August 6th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — Texas Tech. 

2011-12 record: 8-23, 1-17

Billy Gillispie knew he had a major reclamation project on his hands at Texas Tech when he took over prior to the 2011-12 season. The program, which has always traditionally lagged behind the rest of the Big 12 in attendance and overall support, had slowly faded from a perennial NCAA Tournament team under Bob Knight to a cellar-dwellar under Pat Knight in just a few seasons. So when Gillispie landed in Lubbock after Knight’s firing and brought in a boatload of junior college transfers and freshmen, it was no surprise his team finished with eight victories and showed almost no signs of life in his first season. Apparently, that did not sit well with half the team, since six players decided to transfer during the offseason. Gillispie had originally oversigned with his 2012 recruiting class, so it’s not certain what exactly transpired this spring, but it wasn’t strong publicity for Gillispie. Before you accuse him of losing control of his program, though, look at the actual defections that occurred. He’s not losing his entire team by any means. Only one starter (Javarez Willis) transferred. That’s not good, obviously. But the others? As harsh as it sounds, they’re replaceable. And the fact is, Gillispie’s best player and leading scorer returns for his sophomore year in Jordan Tolbert, and he inked eight — yes, eight — newcomers, a class with decent potential on paper. There are still roster questions and other potential defections to worry about this summer, so much that the team hasn’t even officially published its roster online yet. But minus Billy G’s tumultuous tenure at Kentucky, the rest of his track record affords him the benefit of the doubt at Texas Tech. It might not be all that pretty in 2012-13, but the rebuilding process has entered its critical first steps here. Now, we just need to figure out who’ll actually play on the team next year.

Billy Gillispie’s Program Can’t Go Anywhere But Up

Summer Orientation:  As much potential as this Class of 2012 may have, it already lost one member when juco forward Rodrigo Silva left the team this summer to pursue a pro career in Brazil. It’s important to note that the move isn’t yet official, but the word around Texas Tech circles is Silva’s father is ill, and his family has serious financial needs. Understandable. On the court, it’s difficult to lose a 6’10” forward with the largest frame of any recruit in the class, and he’s not the only one who might not make it back to Texas Tech. Fellow forward Wannah Bail, one of the most highly-touted freshman in this bunch, had problems in the classroom this summer and had to temporarily go home. Gillispie said he expects to see him on campus for the fall semester, but this situation poses a serious problem for everybody involved. Bail, a 6’8” tweener and a top-150 prospect, needs to add considerable strength but has the athleticism and defensive potential to log a lot of minutes in his first season– if he plays. That’s why this is such an important development for Gillispie right now. He played high school ball with Michael Carey, who also committed to Tech in February but may not qualify. To be quite frank with you, we’ve attempted to look into Carey’s status for the 2012-13 season, but it appears completely unknown at this point. We know he signed, and we know there’s questions about his eligibility, but that’s all we know. Again, that’s a trend this summer. Who in the heck will really play for this team this season? Here’s another example: Blake Nash, who did officially transfer to Texas Tech but may or may not play in 2012-13. The former South Florida guard wants a hardship waiver after logging decent minutes as a backup during USF’s NCAA Tournament run in March. If he’s eligible, he’ll likely find his way into the rotation in some capacity for Gillispie in his first season and will help stiffen that point guard battle in off-season and fall practice even more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking In On… the Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 13th, 2012

Steve Fetch is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12. You can also find his musings online at Rock Chalk Talk or on Twitter @fetch9.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Baylor Drops From Contention: The Big 12 separated at the top this week as Baylor lost both to Kansas and Missouri. Perry Jones III, who is talked about as a probable lottery pick next June, disappeared this week, scoring five points on 1-8 shooting against Kansas and four points on 2-12 shooting against Missouri. Jones, like the rest of his teammates, has a ton of talent, but doesn’t appear to have the toughness necessary to compete at the highest level.
  • A Third Weapon for Kansas: When the weekly conference awards are announced, Jeff Withey may be the fourth different Kansas player to be named Big 12 Player of the Week this season. Withey had a career-high 25 points against Baylor on Wednesday and followed it up with a great game against Oklahoma State, with 18 points, 20 rebounds, and seven blocks in Lawrence on Saturday. Everyone knows what Thomas Robinson has done, and Tyshawn Taylor’s putting up solid lines lately, but Withey’s emergence gives Kansas maybe the best post combo in the country.
  • Red Raiders Hit The Win Column: The Red Raiders, who were 0-11 in conference play going into the weekend, got an early Valentine’s Day present, beating Oklahoma 65-47 at home. Javarez Willis scored 21 points and Robert Lewandowski had 16, but it was the Red Raiders’ defense that stole the show: Texas Tech held Oklahoma to just 0.73 points per possession and forced them to turn it over on a quarter of their possessions.

Kansas' Jeff Withey Builds A Case For Most Improved Player. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Missouri (23-2, 10-2): Missouri survived a scare on Monday when Oklahoma guard Steven Pledger’s three at the buzzer rimmed out (it didn’t stop him from celebrating a bit early, though). They’ll get the opportunity to avenge one of their conference losses this week when Oklahoma State comes to town. I’m assuming they’ll shoot a bit better than 48% from two and 21% from three in that one.
  2. Kansas (18-5, 8-2): It was a tale of two halves on Saturday, as Kansas completely destroyed Oklahoma State in the first half, jumping out to a 51-24 lead after 20 minutes. But they came out lethargic in the second and struggled with Oklahoma State’s press, turning it over regularly and getting outscored by 12. Kansas used its size advantage well that day, grabbing over half of its misses and limiting Oklahoma State to just a 13.2% offensive rebounding rate. The one negative for Kansas as of late has been their inability to take care of the ball: their turnover rate is sixth in the Big 12. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big 12 Morning Five: 11.04.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 4th, 2011

  1. Billy Gillispie’s exhibition debut at Texas Tech resulted in a victory, but it wasn’t a banner performance by any means. Tech trailed by four at halftime to Southwestern Oklahoma before scrapping out a 76-70 victory. The game went to the wire as the Red Raiders led by just two points with 10 seconds remaining. Although Gillispie’s entire team is essentially composed entirely of newcomers, it was two returners who led the way on Thursday night. Sophomore Javarez Willis scored 22 points while Robert Lewandowski, the lone senior on the team, chipped in 18 points. It wasn’t a pretty start start for Texas Tech, but a win’s a win, as they say.
  2. Gillispie’s old school, Texas A&M, had a little less trouble in its exhibition match-up with Dallas Baptist. Khris Middleton’s 20 points led the Aggies to a 91-55 romp, a game that featured a ridiculous rebounding margin (47-23) and a lot of three-point attempts (38 combined between the two teams). A&M led by 26 at halftime and coasted from there. Kourtney Roberson also finished with a double-double: 14 points and 12 rebounds.
  3. The NBA Development League held its 2011 draft Thursday night. It’s not exactly a hit with the Nielsen ratings, but a few notable Big 12 players were selected. Former Iowa State Cyclone Jamaal Tinsley, a former Big 12 Player of the Year, went first overall. He’s already played eight years in the NBA so the moment for him probably wasn’t a tearjerker. Gary Johnson (Texas) went in the late first round, Brady Morningstar (Kansas) went in the third, and Darion Anderson (Iowa State) was drafted in the fourth. Here’s to an extended career to those four players.
  4. For you TV announcer junkies, here’s a look at the commentators for the upcoming Big 12 season, as well as the rest of college basketball. Looks like more of the same, especially on Big Monday: Bob Knight and Brent Musburger are back. Depending on how you feel about The General, that’s either a brilliant or disastrous move. Also, both Jon Sciambi and Mitch Holthus will call weekly Big 12 games.
  5. And in your sad news of the morning: Oklahoma held a memorial service for radio announcer Bob Barry, Sr., who died last weekend at the age of 80. Barry spent 50 years in the business and every player, reporter, and coach he’s ever worked alongside had nothing but the best to say about him. Barry was an Oklahoma icon, and he will be missed–even by people who never met him.
Share this story

Big 12 Team Previews: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted by dnspewak on November 2nd, 2011

Projected Finish: 10th

2010-11 Record: 13-19, 5-11 (11th, Big 12)

Head Coach: Billy Gillispie, first season

Key Losses: John Roberson (14.1 PPG), Mike Singletary (12.7 PPG), Brad Reese (11.5 PPG), David Tairu (10.0 PPG)

It’s a fresh start at Texas Tech this season in every sense of the phrase. The school fired Pat Knight after a run of mediocrity, and the roster now consists of one returning starter from the 2010-11 team. The top four scorers are gone, and the program hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since Bob Knight led it there in 2006-07. So why the sense of optimism right now in Lubbock? It’s all for one reason: the hiring of new coach Billy Gillispie. After successful tenures at both UTEP and Texas A&M (and a decent two years at Kentucky that most other schools would accept), Gillispie is tailor-made for this job. At this point, his roster is bare: nine freshmen and only a few recognizable faces. The 2011-12 campaign may be difficult, but it won’t stay that way for long.

Gillispie Will Attempt to Rehabiltate His Image in Lubbock

The Stars: This team revolves around forward Robert Lewandowski, the only player on the team who averaged more than 13 minutes per game last season after starting 26 games. As the only senior on the roster, he’s also never been a primary scoring option. However, he’s a big, strong center with a decent defensive presence, and he’s a smart player who makes high-percentage shots. Plus, Lewandowski also lost 25 pounds this offseason, which means he’ll be significantly more mobile. The lighter frame should also help with his stamina, as he seemed to wear down toward the end of last year. He doesn’t fit the mold of the traditional “star,” but he’s got to emerge as the go-to option this season. If not, Tech’s going to have a heck of a time scoring on the offensive end.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Summer Updates: Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 10th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big 12 correspondent, Evan Pfaff.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Round Robin Scheduling – For the first time since the Big 12 was formed, the conference will implement full round-robin scheduling, meaning each school will play a home-and-home with each of the other nine schools in the conference.  In the past, schools played the teams in their division in a home-and-home, but only played schools in the other division once per season, switching home courts every year.  That meant the epic battles between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks happened only once per regular season, and whichever school hosted the game had a monumental advantage over the other.  With a full round-robin format, not only will each school play two additional conference games, but seeding will be based more on outcomes on the floor than the scheduling fates.
  • Reloading Talent – The Big 12 is used to replacing an enormous amount of talent. In 2010, ten Big 12 players were taken in the NBA Draft.  Two months ago, the Big 12 cupboards were once again raided, as seven players heard their names called. The conference should again be stacked and we might hear as many as ten names called on draft day 2012. From incoming freshmen like Baylor’s Quincy Miller, Texas’ Myck Kabongo and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash, to returning stars like Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, the Big 12 should again be a breeding ground for NBA rosters.
  • New Coaches… EVERYWHERE.  Change is inevitable in college athletics, but stability at the top usually translates into success on the floor. So it is eye opening that from Mike Anderson and Mark Turgeon leaving to Pat Knight and Jeff Capel being shown the door, the Big 12 had a 40% coaching turnover this summer. Now with Frank Haith, Billy Kennedy, Billy Gillispie and Lon Kruger roaming Big 12 sidelines, the conference has some questions to answer. Can Missouri conform to a set offense? Can A&M meet high preseason expectations under new management? Do Billy Clyde Gillispie and Lon Kruger have another run left in them?

Kansas head coach Bill Self has a tall task in front of him after losing most of the punch from last season's potent lineup.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story