BengalszoneBilly Posted October 13, 2007 Report Share Posted October 13, 2007 Gillispie era begins at Kentucky By JEFFREY McMURRAY, Associated Press Writer LEXINGTON, Ky. - Billy Gillispie threw one of college basketball's biggest parties Friday night, but the new Kentucky coach stayed true to his promise to remain under control. "I'm not going to propose to anybody or anything," said Gillispie, a bachelor.There was plenty of pomp and circumstance — and a vocal near-capacity crowd of 23,313 — to herald the arrival of a new coach in the home of college basketball's all-time winningest program.The team bus pulled into Rupp Arena shortly after 10 p.m., and each player circled the court waving to the fans, as pyrotechnics behind both baskets illuminated their path.Gillispie's entrance was even flashier. He stood at center court behind four white banners that extended to the rafters. Then came loud bursts of fireworks, and the banners dropped, revealing the new coach, waving and sporting a wide grin."I have such a sense of the tradition of basketball," Gillispie said. "It's my life. I love it. I've heard about Rupp Arena and being Kentucky's basketball coach, but it can't feel any better than it feels right now."Gillispie replaced Tubby Smith as coach, and from his folksy news conferences to his recruiting coups, excitement is high in what could be the nation's most demanding fan base.It was quite different for Smith at his new job at Minnesota on Friday night. A crowd of just a few thousand turned out to cheer on a Gophers team that is coming off a 9-22 season.Still, when Smith was introduced, he was welcomed to thunderous applause and chants of "Tubby! Tubby!"Gillispie is already well known in Lexington, where the basketball coach is always the biggest celebrity. But this was the first time fans saw their new coach in a real basketball setting.No newcomer truly becomes a Wildcat until he goes through Madness, center Jared Carter says."Whenever he's in Rupp Arena and it's packed, he hears the fireworks go off and all the fans cheer, he'll know he's officially Kentucky," Carter said.Fans may know Gillispie, just not how to spell his name.One entertaining Madness video featured guard Ramel Bradley quizzing people about the spelling. One student answered: "G-y-l-l-s-p-y."Gillispie inherits a young team loaded with guards, including lone seniors Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford."I've been used to doing things one way for three years, but it's a change for the better," Crawford said. "He's definitely brought new ideas to the table, brought new life."The frontcourt could be more of an issue. The Wildcats will rely heavily on top freshman recruit Patrick Patterson and sophomore Perry Stevenson, a shot-blocking specialist last year who is trying to become a scoring presence.Returning players insist Big Blue Madness is contagious, and predicted even the business-minded Gillispie wouldn't be able to resist enjoying it. "After tonight he's going to be like, 'Oh wow, 24,000 people. This is crazy,'" sophomore guard Jodie Meeks said. "I don't think he'll shy away from it. I think he'll experience it and love it." The tradition of starting practice with midnight festivities continued around the country Friday night. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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