STEPHENVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM & AP) — Billy Gillispie was named head coach at Tarleton State, taking over a program making the transition from NCAA Division II to Division I.
The move Monday, March 30th, came two years after Gillispie had a successful kidney transplant, and eight years after his last Division I job.
The former Texas A&M, Kentucky and Texas Tech coach had been at a Texas junior college the past five years. The 60-year-old West Texas native got a four-year contract from Tarleton State that goes through the 2023-24 season.
“I’ve always believed I have been the luckiest man alive and today continues to illustrate that thought,” Gillispie said. “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.”
Tarleton State begins the transition to Division I on July 1. The Texans will begin regular-season competition in the Western Athletic Conference next season, but won’t be eligible for Division I postseason play until the 2024-25 season.
The school is planning to hold a virtual press conference on Tuesday, March 31st, to formally introduce Gillispie.
“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 Tarleton State president Dr. James 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.”
A rising star in the coaching profession after quick rebuilding jobs at UTEP and Texas A&M, Gillispie was hired by Kentucky in 2007. He was fired after two seasons when the Wildcats missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 17 years. He was then out of coaching for two years, during which he spent time in a substance-abuse program after a drunken driving arrest.
In his only season at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders won only one Big 12 game in 2011-12.
Ranger College was 31-7 during Gillispie’s debut in 2015-16, reaching the national junior college tournament before forfeiting all its wins because of an ineligible player. He announced his retirement midway through his second at Ranger, saying he was taking the advice of doctors after battling high blood pressure. He returned as coach before the 2017-18 season, and the team reached the national junior college championship game in 2019.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)