- Associated Press - Sunday, March 20, 2011

LUBBOCK, TEXAS (AP) - Texas Tech hired Billy Gillispie as the new men’s basketball coach, two seasons after he was fired at Kentucky.

Gillispie will be introduced Wednesday at a news conference, school athletics spokesman Blayne Beal said Sunday. Gillispie replaces Pat Knight, who was fired this month.

In 2009, Kentucky fired Gillispie after the Wildcats went 40-27 in his two seasons and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 17 years.

He agreed to a five-year contract, according to a statement released by the school.

“I can’t wait to get started,” Gillispie said in the statement. “Texas Tech is a great school that is located in a great community and is part of one of the toughest conferences in the country.”

Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who interviewed Gillispie in Florida on Wednesday, told The Associated Press on Sunday that he and Gillispie talked at length the past two weeks. They discussed Gillispie’s arrest on drunken driving charges a few months after Kentucky fired him.

He said Gillispie is remorseful for his mistakes.

“He accepts full responsibility _ never pointing a finger at someone else, never blaming anyone else,” Hocutt said. “The process and the journey where he’s at today has been a learning one for him. He has pledged and shared his commitment to me to always represent Texas Tech in a first-class manner.”

Gillispie, 140-85 in his seven seasons as a Division I coach, led UTEP and Texas A&M to remarkable turnarounds. Texas Tech officials are hopeful he can do the same in Lubbock.

In 2004, he led UTEP to its first NCAA appearance since 1992 after it went 24-8 and won a share of the Western Athletic Conference title.

At A&M, the Texas native led the Aggies to three consecutive 20-win seasons and Gillispie was chosen AP Big 12 coach of the year in 2005. In 2007, the Aggies lost 65-64 to Memphis in the NCAA regional semifinal.

Five months after his firing at Kentucky, in August 2009, Gillispie was arrested on a drunken driving charge. In November 2009, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.

Gillispie’s West Texas roots and his track record for picking up limping programs impressed Hocutt, he said.

“There’s nobody in the country or maybe in the game ever that is as recognized for turning around basketball programs quicker than he has,” Hocutt said. “He’s a proven winner.”

Texas Tech announced before the Big 12 tournament that Knight would not return next season, and Knight publicly endorsed Gillispie for the job.

Gillispie, who becomes Texas Tech’s 14th coach since 1925, was an assistant at Tulsa, Baylor, South Plains College in nearby Levelland, Texas State and Illinois before going to UTEP in 2002.

John Calipari, the former Memphis coach, replaced Gillispie at Kentucky. In his first season at Kentucky, 2007-08, Gillispie garnered coach of the year honors in the Southeastern Conference and led his team to the NCAA tournament, where the Wildcats lost first round.

A “good recruiter and a good salesman” is how university chancellor Kent Hance described the native of Abilene, a few hours east of Lubbock, this week. He met with Gillispie last weekend in Dallas.

“He’s very personable and I think has an idea what needs to be done in the basketball program and would be a good person for Texas Tech,” Hance said.



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