While the NCAA tournament field was cut to eight teams on Friday, speculation about offseason coaching changes heated up as well as Kentucky canned Billy Gillispie after only two years at the helm.
Gillispie, who once upon a time was an assistant at Illinois under Bill Self, had previous successful head coaching stints at UTEP and Texas A&M. But his hard-ass personality seemed to rub the good ol' boys down in Kentucky the wrong way. A 14-loss season and an NIT appearance this year gave the university the excuse it needed to cut ties with him.
I'm certain Gillispie (left) will find work somewhere next year. He's a good coach. But he may have to take a job somewhere in the Atlantic 10 or Conference USA to restore his reputation.
A bigger question: What's next for UK? Will it be able to lure a top coach? It doesn't sound like Florida's Billy Donovan is interested, and who can blame him? He's got a great gig with the Gators. Thanks to the back-to-back national championships he won in 2006 and 2007, Donovan can go to the NIT and not fear for his job security.
Other names that have been mentioned are John Calipari from Memphis, Travis Ford from Oklahoma State, Tom Izzo from Michigan State and, of course, Rick Pitino from Louisville. Most of the UK fans would probably love to bring Pitino back, but that probably won't happen.
Dustin Harris, one of our Web editors here at Fox Valley Publications, is a UK grad. His first choice is Mark Few from Gonzaga, although Dustin acknowledged he doesn't think that will happen. Few has basically a bye into the NCAA tournament every year at Gonzaga. Would he give that up for the UK pressure-cooker? Unlikely.
Likewise, Izzo would be insane to give up his gig at Michigan State. Ford, who did a fine job of leading an undersized Oklahoma State team into the second round of the tournament this year, would be a logical choice. He played at UK. He knows the fan culture there. The one problem -- he's only been at Okie State for one year. He doesn't have much big conference experience.
There is one other top-notch job open this year: Arizona. The Wildcats were soundly beaten by Pitino's Louisville squad in the NCAA tournament tonight.
Everyone knows interim coach Russ Pennell is just keeping the seat warm at U of A. Whoever takes that job faces a major rebuilding, as an entire recruiting class jumped ship when Lute Olson retired. Arizona will lose its top two players, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, to the NBA.
Olson figures to cast a shadow over the Arizona program as long as he remains alive. It will be interesting to see who wants to take that challenge on. And it will be interesting to see whether UK can coax a top-flight coach to come on board.