He’s coming home.
Coach Billy Clyde Gillispie, the newly appointed head of Tarleton State’s hoops program, the leader of our school’s truly miraculous turnaround in the mid ‘00s, and the literal reason that I am typing these words... he’s coming home.
Former Texas A&M basketball coach Billy Gillispie will return to Aggieland for the first time in almost 14 years on Dec. 2 as his new team, Tarleton State, has scheduled a non-conference game against the Aggies. | @Travis_L_Brownhttps://t.co/wyjaDldDmJ— Aggie Sports (@Aggie_Sports) May 7, 2020
If you’re relatively new to the Aggie Hoops scene, you may need some extra context. In order to understand the importance of this announcement, you need to understand the story of Billy’s departure.
First, the emotion of our recent Sweet 16 appearance was still extremely raw. The Acie-led Aggies had earned a #3 seed in the San Antonio regional, making them a trendy pick to win the region. I won’t go into the semantics surrounding the crushing loss to Memphis in front of 30,000 Aggies at the Alamodome, but it was a game we should have won... giving us a chance to face eventual runner-up Ohio State in the Elite Eight.
Second, in the buildup to that weekend, rumors began swirling that A&M was planning a godfather offer to keep Billy in Aggieland for life... as he had become the hottest coaching commodity in the nation. I’ve always felt that a Final Four appearance would have been enough to secure that sweet mid-’00s oil money, and that our loss to Memphis stalled that momentum. Creating a gap that Kentucky was all-too-happy to capitalize on, securing Gillispie’s rights in the immediate aftermath of the NCAA Tournament.
To recap: The best A&M basketball team I had seen in my lifetime (and the culmination of a three-year turnaround that doubles as the most formative experience of my college career) loses a heart-breaking game on the biggest stage, shortly before losing the architect that brought it all together.
The timing of it all did many things to my fragile young psyche back then, but perhaps chief among them is this: It never gave me a chance to say thank you.
On December 2n, I’ll get to do exactly that. Me, and the thousands of Aggies that found their way to this program through his efforts... we’ll get to say thank you.
I can’t wait.