Gillispie OK with 0-11 start in Big 12, likes his team's effort
Billy Gillispie likes where he is, despite a winless Big 12 record so far in his first season at Texas Tech.
Keen to be back coaching after two years away, Gillispie began the season with a Red Raiders roster that included just one starter in three returning players from Pat Knight's team. There were 10 new players — all but one of them freshmen.
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There is talent but not enough experience, said Gillispie, whose team is 0-11 in conference play. "Overachieved" is how he characterized his team's performance this year.
"Nobody wants to have the record that we do right now," the former Kentucky head coach said. "But when you look at the improvement that they've made and the approach that they've started to take, all the good things that really don't show up in the final score, I'm very, very proud of where we are."
Gillispie's view of the season heading into Saturday night's home game against Oklahoma (13-10, 3-8) isn't unfamiliar. In his first season at UTEP, the Miners finished 6-24. In his second year, in 2004, Gillispie led UTEP to a share of the WAC title and its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992 after it went 24-8, tying the NCAA record for most improved team from one season to the next.
At Texas A&M, he led the Aggies to three consecutive 20-win seasons and was chosen AP Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2005.
The conference record hasn't hurt recruiting, Gillispie said, adding that responses from recruits overall was better than he imagined.
"We're way ahead," Gillispie said. "They've seen the track record (of my coaching stops), they know what's going to happen, they just don't know when, either. But they know that we need to continue to upgrade our roster to make it happen."
The Red Raiders haven't won a game since Dec. 30. Gillispie said he and his staff keep the players focused on the next game.
"That's the reason they've been able to maintain their spirit because it's hard getting beat," he said. "All coaches say, 'one game at a time,' fans can't understand that but it is one game at a time, whether you're winning them all or you haven't won yet. We're going to get where we want to go. We just don't know when it's going to happen."
Gillispie was out of coaching for two seasons after his firing in 2009 from Kentucky. The Wildcats went 40-27 in his two seasons and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 17 years.
Gillispie, who grew up about 250 southeast of Lubbock, knew what to expect coming back to West Texas.
"The bottom line is winning, and I'm a winner, and we turn these programs around," Gillispie said. "But for anyone to think there wasn't going to be some hard days and some hard times you really haven't paid very close attention. That's what happens when you take over a program that needs a little fixing."
NCAA denies UConn's waiver request
The NCAA turned down Connecticut's request for a waiver that would allow its men's basketball team to play in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. UConn won't qualify for the tournament because of below-standard academic results, but it requested a waiver last month.
The school proposed alternate penalties, including playing a shorter schedule next season, forfeiting the revenue awarded to the Big East for participating in the 2013 tournament, and barring Coach Jim Calhoun from meeting off-campus with prospective recruits during the fall 2012 contact period.
University President Susan Herbst said she's disappointed by the decision to reject that proposal, and said the school will appeal.
Softball team rallies for its first win
Senior Rachel Riley and freshman Griffin Joiner both hit home runs in the seventh inning to help Kentucky's softball team rally for a 3-2 victory, its first of the season, against Pacific on Friday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Trailing 2-0 heading into its final at-bat, sophomore Emily Jolly reached on an error. UK's starting pitcher, Riley, connected on a 1-1 offering and drilled it over the left-center wall to tie the score. Two outs later, UK (1-1) took the lead on Joiner's first career hit.
Bengals' Maualuga charged with assault
Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga was charged with assault stemming from a downtown Cincinnati bar incident. Police cited the player, 25, with the misdemeanor count on Friday after investigating allegations by a bar employee that Maualuga punched him in the face early Sunday morning. Maualuga's arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 17. Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan said the club doesn't comment on unresolved legal matters.
■ New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle Friday. The injury hampered Gronkowski in the Super Bowl, when he had just two catches for 26 yards in the 21-17 loss to the New York Giants in Indianapolis.
Sandusky requests time with grandkids
Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's request for greater freedom of movement — and for visits from his young grandchildren — while he awaits trial on child sex-abuse charges was taken under advisement by a judge Friday, but prosecutors countered that Sandusky's home isn't a safe place for children.
Judge John Cleland set a tentative trial date of May 14 for Sandusky and promised to rule quickly on a number of other issues, including dueling requests for changes to his bail restrictions.
Prosecutors want him confined to the inside of his house while on home confinement awaiting trial; the defense asked that he be allowed out occasionally to help with the case.
Defense attorney Joe Amdendola also asked that Sandusky, 68, be permitted to see his grandchildren, a request strenuously opposed by prosecutors.
"This home was not safe for children for 15 years, and it's not safe for children now," said state prosecutor Jonelle Eshbach.
Isner knocks off Federer in Davis Cup
John Isner jolted Roger Federer with his big serve and booming groundstrokes Friday, winning 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 to give the United States a 2-0 lead against Switzerland in the first round of the Davis Cup in Fribourg, Switzerland. Isner challenged the Swiss star in long rallies on the indoor clay court, sending Federer to his first loss in Davis Cup singles in eight years.
The upset was preceded by a riveting opening singles match, with Mardy Fish outlasting Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 9-7.
Florida explosion kills woman, horse
An explosion in an equine hyperbaric chamber in Ocala, Fla., on Friday killed Erica Marshall, 28, and the horse she was treating. A co-worker, Sorcha Moneley, was hospitalized with serious injuries.
The Kesmarc Florida facility is a sister facility to the Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center in Versailles, Ky.
The last word
In a matter of eight days, Tennessee's women's basketball team has lost twice in the Southeastern Conference, a prospect backed off her longtime commitment to the program and the Lady Vols are out of the top 10 for the first time this season. It's been tough to watch — and not just for the fans. After the team's loss Thursday night at Vanderbilt, Coach Pat Summitt said:
"They let us down. As coaches, we're n ot happy and (the players are) not happy. At least they better not be happy because we got more basketball to play. But this one, man this one hurts. It really does."