The Wyoming basketball fans — or at least a few who will out themselves as such — have spoken.
They want Billy Gillispie.
Just a few hours after fourth-year coach Heath Schroyer was axed on Monday afternoon, a Facebook page calling for the former Kentucky boss to be brought in was up and running.
Not much later, the comments began, with members of the Cowboys' beleaguered fan base essentially begging.
I saw two weeks ago where these few diehards are coming from, as the locals in Laramie, Wyo., have largely abandoned the once-successful program during what's been an awful season. The Cowboys, entering Wednesday's game at New Mexico, are just 8-15 overall and tied for last in the Mountain West with TCU at 1-8.
While up there to cover a game between UNLV and Wyoming, maybe 1,500 people showed up for the Wednesday night tilt. Word is that the atmosphere with BYU — a Top 10 team — in town last week was just as bad, if not worse.
What Gillispie could bring is instant credibility and buzz to not just the program, but to the lower third of the Mountain West. That collection of teams stuck at the bottom of the ranks in the last couple of years — Wyoming, Air Force and TCU — has struggled to pull its weight in helping with the league's fight for national respect.
Wyoming appears to have several other worthy potential candidates to look at already, but if Gillispie is even remotely interested, he should be at the top of the heap.
His two-year run at Kentucky seemed doomed not long after its start, while personal issues away from the court and the office sure didn't help his cause, either. In the end, it was clear that he'd taken on more than he was prepared to handle in arguably college hoops' most pressure-packed fish bowls.
There's a good coach who can work mini-miracles still in there somewhere, though.
Don't forget that the guy first turned around UTEP, then a Texas A&M program that at the time was almost as dormant as Wyoming's currently is. He went 70-26 in three seasons in College Station. That run included no fewer than 21 wins a year and a Sweet 16 berth.
The cupboard at Wyoming isn't necessarily empty. There's a strong pair of sophomores in place with guard Desmar Jackson (15.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.1 apt) and forward Amath M'Baye (10.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Also, set to become eligible next season is 6-foot-7 USC transfer Leonard Washington, who will be a junior.
With an arena that is built more than 7,000 feet above sea level, there's a potentially huge built-in home-court advantage.
Also, despite its rural location, several coaches in the past have found ways to get talent into Laramie. It's not necessarily impossible. Gillispie's been able to recruit to some outposts as a head coach, and was just as good as a long-time assistant under Bill Self at Tulsa and Illinois.
It wouldn't be a shocker to anyone if Gillispie holds out until the end of the season to field offers, as his name will likely be brought up for the potential opening in his home state at Texas Tech, in the same conference where he already turned himself into a hot commodity once.
Off of the court, is he actually ready to get back into coaching full time? There's only one way to find out. And Wyoming is in a position where it can afford to take a bit of a reach.
But if Gillispie truly wants to find a way back to the top, he could certainly do worse than taking a route through the trendy Mountain West.
- Billy Gillispie