Sports

Mark Story: Not the time to throw stones

Your coaching vacancy edition of What I Know:

What I Know: Mitch Barnhart and Lee Todd now say that Billy Gillispie's memorandum of understanding was a year-to-year agreement, not a seven-year deal with a $6 million buyout clause.

What I Think: This is a total flip in position from what Barnhart and Todd were saying about the memorandum of understanding just last spring.

Back then, when there were rumors that Gillispie might bolt for the then-vacant Oklahoma State job, I asked both UK honchos if they were afraid the fact the coach did not have a formally signed contract made it more likely he could leave.

Both Barnhart and Todd essentially replied that the signed memorandum of understanding had the same effect as a contract, so they weren't worried that it made it easier for Billy G. to leave.

Clearly, UK's new position on the nature of the agreement is a negotiating stance designed to bring Gillispie's buyout down from the $6 million he is owed by the terms of the memorandum.

An attorney I spoke to recently with experience in negotiating contracts says Gillispie holds the cards in this situation. The attorney said if Kentucky and its now ex-coach end up in court litigating over the buyout, he would take Gillispie's case on pure commission, so strong did he think it was.

In divorce situations, sometimes people let emotion over-ride common sense, so this could get interesting.

However, it would be foolish for either UK or Gillispie to ever let this get to court.

All major college sports programs are glass houses. The last thing Kentucky should want is a disgruntled former head basketball coach under oath testifying about what he knows.

As for Gillispie, his future would almost certainly be better served without a full public airing of the grievances his bosses had that led to his firing after only two years.

What I Know: When the epitaph is written on Billy Gillispie's abbreviated tenure as Kentucky coach, one chapter will be on his supposed poor relationship with the media.

What I Think: For the sake of history, if nothing else, I'd like to set this record straight. Billy G. did not have a poor relationship with the vast majority of the Kentucky news media.

Gillispie could be sarcastic in news conferences. He was sometimes short in his answers. He would often challenge the premise of what seemed the most logical of questions.

But I never one time saw Gillispie be abusive toward a member of the local media corps. Rick Pitino was harsh toward more reporters in almost any week from his UK tenure than Gillispie was in two years.

Gillispie was different than prior UK coaches that I have covered in two ways.

He did not treat the "loyal media" — those who work for outlets who have financial ties to the university — differently than he treated everyone else.

Billy G. was just as apt to give a short answer to UK radio play-by-play man Tom Leach on his post-game radio show as he was to a newspaper columnist who had been criticizing him.

Secondly, much to the detriment of his public image, Gillispie would be short or sarcastic with media members like ESPN's Jeannine Edwards on live television.

More public-relations savvy public figures usually don't allow themselves to look bad when they know the public is watching.

What I Know: Anthony Grant, the Virginia Commonwealth head coach and former Florida assistant, has accepted the top job at Alabama.

What I Think: Much more than any public statement, Grant's move is a sign that Billy Donovan really is intent on staying at Florida.

If that weren't so, Grant would have waited on the chance to go back to Gainesville.

What I Know: Few affiliated with Kentucky have seen more college basketball games than longtime TV analyst and former "Rupp's Runts" player Larry Conley.

What I Think: That should give Conley's opinion on which coaches UK should consider for its opening some added weight.

On Friday, the former Kentucky forward said he has had five names at the top of his list for years.

Billy Donovan (Florida), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Bill Self (Kansas), Mike Montgomery (California), Rick Barnes (Texas).

Of those five, Donovan appears uninterested. For Self, moving from Kansas to Kentucky would be a lateral move (not to mention his close friendship with Gillispie).

Montgomery had a stellar run at Stanford, flopped in the NBA, and never seems to get much play for elite college jobs.

If they are interested, Izzo and Barnes could become major players in the UK search.

What I Know: Even in an iPod age, you can still make long-distance dedications on old-fashioned, over-the-air radio.

What I Think: Orlando in Minneapolis may just have a song request for all the folks he left behind in Kentucky.

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