Billy Gillispie named Tarleton head men’s basketball coach

Sports

STEPHENVILLE – Four-time NCAA Tournament and 12-time Coach of the Year head coach Billy Gillispie has been selected as the head men’s basketball coach at Tarleton State University announced Monday by University President Dr. James Hurley and Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lonn Reisman.

Gillispie has agreed to a four-year contract with the Texans through the 2024 season. Terms of the contract are pending approval by The Texas A&M System Board of Regents.

“Wow, what a blessing,” said Gillisipie. “I’ve always believed I have been the luckiest man alive and today continues to illustrate that thought.

“I would like to thank Dr. Hurley, Lonn Reisman, Tarleton State University, and The Texas A&M System led by Chancellor [John] Sharp for making this day possible,” Gillispie continued. “I promise to make the most of this opportunity and honor everyone involved. I’m looking forward to helping make great things happen as we move to the NCAA Division I level.”

A virtual press conference to formally introduce Gillispie is scheduled for Tuesday, March 31 at 11 a.m. on TarletonSports.com. Due to government social distancing regulations, the event will be closed to the public. Media can email questions for Gillispie to Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Ryan Cox at rcox@tarleton.edu.

“Coach Gillispie has shown to truly be genuine in the way he cares about helping student-athletes achieve great success both on and off the court,” said Dr. Hurley. “After a national search and an extensive interview process, we are confident that Coach Gillispie’s experience and commitment to Tarleton and our community make him the right person to build on the storied success of Texan basketball.”

“I would like to welcome Billy Gillispie to Tarleton and back to The Texas A&M System family,” said Chancellor Sharp. “Coach Gillispie had tremendous success at Texas A&M and I am confident we will see that same level of success at Tarleton.”

Gillispie becomes Tarleton’s 15th head coach as the Texans transition to NCAA Division I to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Gillisipie has served in the same capacity at Kentucky, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Texas-El Paso (UTEP). The veteran head coach has 13 years of experience as a collegiate head coach with eight of the years coming at the NCAA Division I level. Gillispie has a career Division I record of 148-108 while taking three different teams to the NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Texas A&M, UTEP). Gillispie is a two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year (2005, 2007), co-SEC Coach of the Year (2008), WAC Coach of the Year (2004), a finalist for the NABC National Coach of the Year (2004), and the National JUCO Coach of the Year (2019). He’s also a three-time NTJCAC and five-time TABC Coach of the Year.

Known as an elite recruiter, Gillispie once managed to put together four straight national top-25 recruiting classes from 2005-09. He also had the sixth-ranked recruiting class at Baylor as an assistant in 1996. In Gillispie’s career, he has helped recruit over 30 players that advanced to the NBA and NFL and 102 players that played professionally.

With 20 years of experience as a high school head coach in Texas and a Division I assistant, including under legendary head coach Bill Self at Tulsa and Illinois, Gillispie got his first collegiate head coaching job at UTEP from 2002-04. In just his second year leading the Miners, Gillispie lifted the team to an 18-win improvement – the best in the NCAA – and claimed the WAC regular season title, the WAC Coach of the Year award, and advanced to his first NCAA Tournament. It was UTEP’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1992.

After two seasons at UTEP, Gillispie was hired by Texas A&M where he once again had one of the biggest turnarounds in the country. In his first season with the Aggies, Gillispie led his new team to a 21-10 record – a 14-win increase from the season before – and advanced to the NIT Quarterfinals. The turnaround garnered his first career Big 12 Coach of the Year award. In year two (2005-06), Texas A&M finished 22-9 and fourth in the Big 12 while claiming a No. 12 seed in the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the Aggies since 1987. Gillispie picked up his first tournament win in an opening-round upset over Jim Boeheim’s No. 5-seed Syracuse Orangemen.

Gillispie’s best season came in 2006-07 when he won a career-high 27 games with the Aggies, finished second in the Big 12, and won his second Big 12 Coach of the Year award in three seasons. Gillispie led the Aggies into storied Allen Fieldhouse to take on the defending Big 12 Champion No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks and became the first visiting team from the Big 12 South Division to leave with a victory. Less than 48 hours later, Gillispie topped the Kevin Durant-led No. 25 Texas Longhorns for his second straight ranked victory. The Aggies finished the season ranked No. 6 by ESPN/USA Today, which was a then-Texas A&M record.

Texas A&M advanced to its second straight NCAA Tournament, this time as a No. 3 seed. The Aggies topped Penn in the opening round and followed with a second-round win over Rick Pitino’s No. 6-seed Louisville Cardinals to advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1980.

In his three seasons at Texas A&M, Gillispie coached three future NBA players, including a pair of first-round picks in Acie Law IV (11th pick) and Antoine Wright (15th pick). He also coached a future NFL second-round draft pick in dual-sport athlete Martellus Bennett.

After three seasons at Texas A&M, Gillispie was hired to lead the Kentucky Wildcats where he racked up a 40-27 record over two seasons and reached his fourth NCAA Tournament, including his third straight appearance. In his first season, Gillispie led the Wildcats to a 12-4 mark in the SEC and was named the Co-SEC Coach of the Year. Gillispie coached six future NBA draft picks, including first-round selection and current Los Angeles Clipper Patrick Patterson (14th pick).

After Kentucky, Gillispie signed on at Texas Tech but resigned after one season due to health reasons. In 2018, Gillispie underwent a successful kidney transplant.

A rejuvenated Gillispie made a triumphant return to the sidelines at his alma mater Ranger Junior College. Over the last four seasons at Ranger College, Gillipsie went 103-24 and took the Rangers to the NJCAA national title game in 2019, where he was named the JUCO National Coach of the Year.

“I cannot wait to get started,” Gillispie said. “At Tarleton, we will be inheriting an ultra-successful program that Lonn and Chris Reisman established as well as countless others that have poured their hearts and souls into Texan Basketball for more than 30 years. No program has been more successful during that time. We will try our hardest every day to honor the efforts that have been made as we move into a new era of Division I basketball and make every one of the Tarleton faithful proud.”

Gillispie’s Coaching History
Year(s) School Position
1982-85 Texas State Assistant Coach
1985-87 Killeen HS Assistant Coach
1987-88 Copperas Cove HS Head Coach
1988-90 Canyon HS Head Coach
1990-93 Ellison HS Head Coach
1993-94 South Plains JC Assistant Coach
1994-97 Baylor Assistant Coach
1997-00 Tulsa Assistant Coach
2000-02 Illinois Assistant Coach
2002-04 UTEP Head Coach
2004-07 Texas A&M Head Coach
2007-09 Kentucky Head Coach
2011-12 Texas Tech Head Coach
2015-20 Ranger JC Head Coach
2020-Present Tarleton State Head Coach
What They Say About Coach Gillispie

Bill Self, Kansas
“I think that Tarleton is hiring one of the best builders of programs in this business. Coach Gillispie has proven it at UTEP, Texas A&M and again at Ranger. Billy played a huge role in the success we’ve had at Tulsa and Illinois and I know he is honored, thrilled, motivated, and appreciative to bring Tarleton State into Division I in a way that no one else could.”

Tom Izzo, Michigan State
“Coach Gillispie has incredible work ethic, it’s off the charts. He’s always been known as a grinder. Like everybody, you go through some ups and downs, but those are the guys that make it even better because they really understand how fragile life is. He has a tremendous ability to relate to kids. I see sometimes where people get on him about being demanding … I always say holding people accountable is what’s needed today and I think Coach Gillispie does it in a good way, not a bad way. You look at the greatest coaches out there and they’re ones who hold people accountable and I think Billy is in that group. I think Tarleton is a great program for Billy to resurface at the Division I level because you need someone that’s not afraid to build from the ground up during the transition. Tarleton made a great hire in Billy Gillispie.”

Buzz Williams, Texas A&M
“There is not a better coach in the country to lead Tarleton where they want to go in the WAC. No matter the opponent, or venue, Coach Gillipsie’s teams will give their absolute best on both ends of the floor, and everyone in the program will do the same off the court as well. Coach Gillispie has been successful at every level/every stop of his career, and the same will happen with the Texans’ program.”

Kelvin Sampson, Houston
“Billy Gillispie has a great understanding and talent for coaching winning basketball. His teams are always well prepared and his players have a knack for getting better. Tarleton his an absolute grand slam with this hire.”

Doc Sadler, Nebraska/UTEP/Southern Miss
“The thing only his close friends know, he’s as good and loyal of a friend that anyone could have. He’s always been there for anyone and there’s not a better person that I know than Billy Gillispie. Billy is going to demand a lot, but that’s why players that have played for him have left his program not just as a better basketball player but a better person because he’s going to hold them to the highest standards. A lot of coaches talk about going to class and doing the right thing … well Billy is going to demand it each and every day. For a player, when everything is set and done with their careers, they’re going to be better off because they went through Billy Gillispie’s program. There’s nobody that cares more for the kids that he coaches than he does.”

Tim Floyd, NCAA/Chicago Bulls/New Orleans Hornets
“I don’t think there’s a better coach in the United States and that’s a strong statement. Billy has an inept ability to find winners and achieve great things with them. I don’t know anyone better – and I say this with all due respect to the blue blood programs – but I wonder if they could have done what he did at the places he was at. He’s a special coach and a great person. I think he’s compassionate, cares about his players and other people. I think he’ll be a great fit and Tarleton made a great hire.”

Acie Law, Texas Texas A&M/NBA
“This is a phenomenal hire for Tarleton. Him being able to bounce back and become a Division I head coach exemplifies the message he always conveyed to us as players about being resilient. Think about where he started with the success he was able to build and you think about the adversity he dealt with and health issues … to be able to overcome all of that and bounce back, I’m so excited for him. I think as a coach, you’re getting a guy that is going to work his tail off and work extremely hard and he won’t be outworked. He’s going to succeed wherever he goes.”

Dusty Hannahs, Texas Tech/NBA
“Coach Gillipsie is one of the best people I’ve ever met. He gave me my first chance and was always great to me. I was able to play in the NBA and reach my dreams because of Coach Gillispie. He was the first coach to believe in me at a high level and I owe him a lot. He’s a great coach and great at developing players and will always have a hard-nosed defensive team that wins. He’s a winner and I’m super excited for him to get another chance.”

Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech player
“I thought of him as one of the best coaches in the country. I feel like American loves a good redemption story, so why not him? He really cares as a coach and person and we still stayed in contact over the years. He still checks on me and my family to this day and that speaks volumes to the kind of person Coach Gillispie is.”

Joseph Jones, Texas A&M/Pro
“Playing for Coach Gillispie was one of the greatest decisions I made for my career and my development. He treats everyone like they’re supposed to be treated – like a man and family. He’s tough but he gets the best out of you. Coach Gillispie has been a great person for my life and my family. He goes above and beyond on anything he can do for you as a coach and as a person.”

Ericka Downey, Kidney Donor
“I couldn’t be more excited for him. It’s been a long time coming. His health battle is something that I got an up-close look at and to see the other side of him. Everyone knows how good of a basketball coach he is, but the big missing piece that I’ve been blessed to be a part of is the type of person he is. He is truly a kind soul. Basketball is better because Billy Gillispie is still in it.”

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