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Jamie Vaught: Former UK coach Gillispie keeping mum about his success at Texas junior college

Billy Clyde is back!

His Ranger College team in Texas is doing wonders in junior college basketball this season, compiling a remarkable 21-4 record and a No. 24 national ranking going into this week’s action.

After being away from basketball for three years, coach Billy Gillispie returned to the sport he loved last spring when he was chosen as the school’s head coach and athletic director. It is also the same junior college where he once was a two-sport athlete in basketball and baseball in 1978-80.

Billy Gillispie has guided Ranger College  -- a junior college located 1.5-hours from Fort Worth, Texas  -- to a complete turnaround after taking over a program which had suffered a 2-23 campaign last year (Ranger College Athletics Photo)

Billy Gillispie has guided Ranger College — a junior college located 1.5-hours from Fort Worth, Texas — to a complete turnaround after taking over a program which had suffered a 2-23 campaign last year (Ranger College Athletics Photo)

Sounds like a great homecoming of sorts for the 56-year-old Gillispie, who spent two stormy seasons in Lexington in 2007-09 after successful campaigns at Texas-El Paso and Texas A&M, where he received several coach of the year honors.

And the school — one of the oldest continuously operating public two-year colleges in Texas — is located in Ranger, which has population of around 2,500, and is only a 55-minute drive from Gillispie’s hometown of Graford, a tiny West Texas town of around 500 folks or so. Graford is where the coach grew up and played high school basketball.

Billy Clyde, known as a tireless worker, is certainly coaching without the bright lights of UK and other places, and he is doing remarkably well.

So far this season, Gillispie has guided Ranger College — an 1.5-hour drive from Fort Worth, Texas — to a complete turnaround after taking over the Rangers program which had suffered a 2-23 campaign last year.

How does he feel about his new position?

To find out, I tried to contact Gillispie by e-mail twice last week, but had no luck.

However, that’s not a surprise as the coach isn’t giving out many interviews, if any.

But the Dallas Morning News sportswriter Brad Townsend managed to come up with a story, obtaining some comments from Billy Clyde back in November while covering the coach’s first game at Ranger.

In an e-mail to this columnist last week, Townsend wrote that he has known Gillispie for several years after first writing a lengthy story about the coach, then at Texas A&M, in 2007.

“Since shortly after things went bad for him at Texas Tech (where he was the head coach for only one year in 2011-12), Billy and I have occasionally exchanged phone calls and text messages,” said Townsend. “There were a couple of times that he seriously considered sitting down for a story, but each time he changed his mind.”

Gillispie, a former Bill Self assistant at Illinois who reportedly was considering several assistant coaching opportunities in major college last spring, seems to be happy now.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” he told Townsend in the Dallas Morning News. His squad, interestingly, would have been unbeaten had the Rangers not forfeited four early-season games due to incorrect paperwork.

Gillispie, who has gone through family and personal crisis in recent years, added, “This is the last job I’ll ever have.”

Townsend said, “When I saw that he had been hired at Ranger, we again exchanged texts. Again, he kept saying he would think about consenting to an interview.

“Finally, I decided to show up at a Ranger game, which happened to be his first regular-season game as coach. He smiled and said hello to me before the game. Then I waited for him after the game and we had the conversation that is described in the story. He said he would sit down for an interview the following week, but before we could schedule it, he called me and said the timing just wasn’t right for an extended interview.”

In the same Dallas Morning News article, the coach was asked why hasn’t he given any long interviews. Gillispie said he needed to focus on his current program and had no desire to talk about his past, which included alcohol and health problems.

Ranger College president Billy Campion also pointed out in the story that he’s never heard the coach, whose reported salary is $108,000, say a bad word about Kentucky or Texas Tech, Gillispie’s last two coaching jobs before returning to Ranger.

As you may recall, Gillispie’s two teams at Kentucky posted 18-13 and 22-14 records with his last game as the Wildcat coach taking place in the 2009 NIT, losing 77-67 to Notre Dame in South Bend in the third round.

Gillispie was also named co-SEC Coach of the Year (sharing with then-Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl) in 2008.

Despite a disappointing tenure at Kentucky, it is nice to see Billy Clyde back in the race even without the bright lights of television and media.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Spring training is just around the corner with the pitchers and catchers reporting next week.

And that means the 2016 major league baseball yearbooks are out in full swing with feature stories, preseason predictions, top prospects, statistics and team profiles/schedules as well as brief previews of college baseball.

I have three of the colorful yearbooks by Athlon Sports, Lindy’s Sports and Sporting News. As usual, they are very good this season.

Lindy Sports

According to Athlon, the top two playoff teams in the National League will be the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs with the Giants going to the World Series.

In the American League, the Toronto Blue Jays and the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals will battle in the league championship series, with the Blue Jays winning the AL title.

In college baseball, Athlon has U of L at No. 2 in its preseason Top 25 behind top-ranked Florida. The Cardinals are loaded as they have four preseason All-Americans on the list as well.

Lindy’s has the Washington Nationals, who has a new manager in veteran Dusty Baker, winning the National League with superstars Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer leading the D.C. club. The yearbook has the Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks as NL’s wild-card teams. The AL champion will be the Blue Jays.

Sporting News likes the Giants and the Cubs in the NL championship series with SF heading to World Series. Boston and Kansas City are SN’s choices for AL championship series with the Red Sox advancing and capturing the 2016 World Series title. In college baseball, Florida and Louisville are also the preseason choice for No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

None of the yearbooks are expecting a banner year for the Cincinnati Reds, who are rebuilding after dumping several stars for financial reasons.

Third-year skipper Bryan Price’s club will likely finish either fourth or fifth in the extra-tough Central Division which has playoff contenders Cubs, St. Louis and Pittsburgh with all three teams finishing with the best MLB records in 2015.

And don’t forget Lexington native and former UK star Andy Green, who is beginning his first year as the skipper of the San Diego Padres.

This should be an exciting season for baseball lovers.

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.

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