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 (photo by Texas A&M Athletics) 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.
"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."