Texas A&M sophomore guard Chase Carlton had a game Wednesday night but it didn't keep his mind from wandering a bit after he heard the news about his old coach.
The news of Billy Gillispie, 57, retiring because of health reasons hit home for Carlton, the point guard for Gillispie who helped lead Ranger College from posting single-digit victories the season before to the semifinals of the NJCCA tournament.
"I was thinking about it on the bench a little bit and afterward I thought about it more and I'll give him a call," Carlton said after A&M's win over Denver. "I'll call him. He doesn't always answer is phone, but I'll see if everythign is OK and have him in my prayers."
Gillispie will always be remembered by A&M fans for turning another program around in one season. He directed the Aggies to an NIT berth one season after the team had gone 0-16 in the Big 12. He followed it up with two NCAA berths, the first in 20 years and the start of six straight by A&M.
Ironically, the point guard who led the Aggies those three years with Gillispie, Acie Law IV, was sitting across from Carlton on Wednesday, commentating for the SEC Network.
Gillispie had stepped down once before, at Texas Tech, in part because of health reasons.
Carlton said there were no signs of trouble in the year he played for Gillispie.
"Not even close. Coach, he is one of those people if he can't give 100 percent I don't think he would want to be in that position because he is the type where he is literally going to give you every ounce of energy he has," Carlton said. "He always gave us the we are the touhest mentality, junkyard dogs, the hardest workers, and he had that mentality so if something was wrong with him he wasn't going to let us know. He is a tough person who doesn't want anyone to feel sorrry for him or pity him. He wants to go out there and show he can do anything no matter what."
Gillispie also turned around the program at UTEP before coming to A&M and departed A&M for Kentucky, where he was coach for two years.
Overall, he was 148-108 at the NCAA level. He was known for his hard-nosed style as a head coach or assistant coach at three high schools, eight four-year universities and two junior colleges.
"Coach Gillispie helped me so much in basketball, one because of all the knowledge he has and it helped me get to this level, but also he taught me a lot about being a man and holding yourself accountable, doing things the right way, doing it hard and if you do mess up say something and let the peeple who support you help you out," Carlton said. "So playing for him was a blessing."
Gillispie was 42-5 on the court in his season and one-quarter at Ranger, which ended last season in he semis of the NJCAA and this season with a 65-63 loss at Ranger to New Mexico Junior College on the night before he announced his retirement.
"I did get his one year and we had a special year," Carlton said. "Everybody who saw us knows we earned it because I can tell you there is not one team in the country that worked harder than us last year."
Seems I remember Joseph Jones, Law, Dominique Kirk among many others saying the same thing ... over and over.