Billy Donovan was the first choice.
Two Marches ago, when Tubby Smith uprooted from the Kentucky bluegrass for the land of 10,000 lakes, Donovan, the former UK assistant coach and then-defending national champion at Florida, had a chance to rule over college basketball's Roman Empire. When the 'Cats came calling, he delayed any announcement until after his team cut down the nets in Atlanta. With his refusal, Donovan set the stage for Billy Gillispie, a workaholic from Texas A&M, to be brought in from his basketball outpost.
Fast forward to the present and Donovan will welcome Gillispie's team to UF's O'Connell Center Saturday night for what many believe amounts to a NCAA tournament play-in game. Both 8-6 in a middling SEC, Kentucky and Florida can't afford any more losses, but it's Gillispie who will hear more from his fanbase should his team falter down the stretch. As Joe Biddle of The Tennesean writes today, "Gillispie is about as popular in the Bluegrass these days as anti-smoking advocates."
As Gillispie's team spirals downward, it continues to absorb blame from all onlookers, including the Commonwealth's secretary of state Trey Grayson. After LSU's Tasmin Mitchell hit a game-winning three pointer with 10 seconds remaining, the government official issued this thought on Twitter: "Maybe AJ Stewart should consider quitting again if he is going to leave his man wide open for a game winning shot."
While Stewart did quit the team for a brief stint last week, he was doing his job on the play. It was teammate Kevin Galloway who failed to make the proper switch. Informed of the mistake, the state cabinet member Twittered: "Perhaps I was too hard on Stewart because maybe Galloway was supposed to switch but I just got some Heaton's BBQ and will soon feel better."
Perhaps Biddle captures the fans' hunger best when he writes, "Kentucky teams of Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino and, yes, Tubby Smith would have run through this league like Patton through the Germans."
Is Gillispie the best general to lead the 'Cats? We'll know more Sunday when the battle of Gainesville is over.
Kentucky coach's act wears thin with fans, players [The Tennessean]
Continuous dysfunction hits Cats [Louisville Courier-Journal]