Billy Gillispie ‘would enjoy another challenge,’ very interested in Tarleton State job

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Billy Gillispie could be coaching Division I basketball again.

The former Kentucky, Texas A&M and Texas Tech coach has emerged as a candidate to take over at Tarleton State, Gillispie confirmed to the Star-Telegram on Saturday night. Gillispie, 60, interviewed with Tarleton State on Friday and is hopeful to get a second interview this week.

A timeline on when Tarleton State wants to have its next coach in place is unknown at this point. But Gillispie is interested.

“I feel very fortunate to be included as a candidate,” Gillispie said. “I consider it an honor to be one of the guys they’ve interviewed.”

Gillispie has been coaching in the JUCO ranks for the last five years at Ranger College, and has nothing but good things to say about his current job. He led Ranger to a runner-up finish last year, and was in position for another postseason run this year at 28-3 before the season was halted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But Tarleton would be an avenue for Gillispie to return to the D-I ranks. The Texans are set to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) on July 1, although they will not be eligible for Division-I postseason tournaments until the 2024-25 season.

“I wouldn’t say I’m itching to get back to D-I. I’ve had opportunities,” Gillispie said. “But I would enjoy another challenge. I’ve got a great job here at Ranger, but every coach wants to win the national championship. The national championship is Division I.”

Tarleton would be an ideal fit for Gillispie, who grew up in Graford, about 60 miles north of Tarleton’s campus in Stephenville. He’s familiar with Tarleton’s history as a successful Division II program, and would like to help it make the transition to D-I.

Gillispie has plenty of experience recruiting the state, too, with stops at UTEP (2002-04), Texas A&M (2004-07), Texas Tech (2011-12) and Ranger (2015-present).

“Tarleton State is a hidden gem,” Gillispie said. “But every day that goes by, it becomes less of a hidden gem. It’s got a big-time chance to be something special.

“There’s so many players in Texas. You’re an hour from Fort Worth, 90 minutes from Dallas … there’s so many great players in Texas and you’re centrally located in the state.”

Tarleton has an opening with former coach Chris Reisman becoming the assistant athletics director for student-athlete development and strategic initiatives.

Gillispie was once regarded as one of the top coaches in college basketball.

At A&M, he closed out his three-year tenure by leading the Aggies to the Sweet 16 in 2006-07. He then bolted for Kentucky, but that lasted only two seasons with a well-publicized fallout between the school and Gillispie.

After stepping away from the game for two seasons, Gillispie re-emerged as Texas Tech’s coach for the 2011-12 season. But he went 8-23 in his only season in Lubbock and was met with allegations of player mistreatment. He eventually resigned, citing health concerns.

Gillispie had a three-year break before taking the job at Ranger. He has reached the 20-win mark in each of the last four seasons at Ranger, highlighted by a 31-4 season and finishing as the NJCAA Division-I runner-up in 2019.

“I thought I was done coaching before I came out to Ranger,” Gillispie said. “And I’ve had the time of my life coaching.”

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein first reported the news on Saturday.


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