The Miracle Worker

By Jeff Lippman - October 25, 2007


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It took three years and three Big 12 Coach of the Year awards for Billy Gillispie to earn the moniker of "Miracle Worker" for the dramatic improvements he made to former team Texas A&M in such a short amount of time.

So when the job at Kentucky became available and coach Gillispie took it, the folks in Lexington had a lot to be excited about.

And for Gillispie, what an opportunity this was. Instead of going to program like A&M, where they suffered through an incredibly long losing streak prior to Gillispie taking over, now he's at the winningest basketball program in the history of the NCAA.

This should be a piece of cake for the Miracle Worker, no?

"Nothing is easy," Gillispie said. "When we went in to Texas A&M, they had a 17-game losing streak and we approach our day the same way here. I doubt if they've ever had a losing streak here at Kentucky, but you go about it for 24 hours and you spend that the best you can possibly spend it.

"While it is a different university or whatever, I think your outlook and your eagerness to achieve, you have to go about it the same way."

But that is not to say that Gillispie views his Kentucky team as a rebuilding project. On the contrary, he doesn't believe in such a term.

"I expect to win everywhere I go," said the confident new Wildcats coach. "I have a one-day plan, I don't have a five-year plan. Everything is determined by your players. You have to do a great job developing, you have to have a great home-court advantage, which we obviously have, and those kind of things to win at the highest level. You want to make sure you get to the tournament and once you get in there, advance. But we have a lot of work to do."

For senior guard Ramel Bradley, the leading returning scorer and the captain of the 'Cats, the notion that Gillispie can win, and win immediately, is something that has Bradley antsy with anticipation.

"It makes me very excited," Bradley said, who also led the 'Cats in assists last year. "This is my last time to do it and if I am going to go out any way, I want to go out a winner."

Bradley has high expectations for this year, and he's not alone. Although Lexington is going through a football renaissance right now, don't be fooled, Andre Woodson or not, it is still a basketball town. And with Gillispie in tow, the Bluegrass' expectations have never been higher.

But that doesn't faze Gillispie in the least. In fact, the coach who has already led A&M and UTEP to the NCAA Tournament and recorded the best single-season turnaround two years running with both schools, loves the expectations.

"I don't know of anyplace in college sports where they don't expect you to win all the time," Gillispie said. "I like expectations. You would much rather be at a place where they expect you to win every game, or at least I would, rather than where if you lose it is OK.

"It is not OK to lose to me. It is not OK to underachieve. It is not OK to not play at your very highest level. We are going to try to overachieve every single day in practice, every single time we play, sometimes you'll come up a little short, but it is our goal to overachieve. I am not afraid of expectations."

Bye, Bye Tubby

It was certainly an unexpected turn of events when former coach Tubby Smith left the Wildcats to take over as head coach at Minnesota. And for Ramel Bradley, who had spent three years with coach Smith, the news came as quite a shock.

"We were all really shocked," Bradley said. "To play for a great coach like that for three years and you hear he's not going to be there anymore it really hurt.

"It's like your father is going away and you can't see him anymore."

Well, I suppose it's not exactly like that, as not even a minute after he answered that question, Bradley told of how Gillispie's new more intense style of coaching was a welcome change.

I think you'd be a little angrier if it was your father leaving, and your step father wanted to revolutionize your world. But I got his point nevertheless.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 01:40 PM on October 25, 2007
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