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Archive for Thursday, March 25, 2004

A&M taps UTEP’s coach

Gillispie hired to rebuild Aggies’ program

March 25, 2004

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— Staring into the abyss that is Texas A&M basketball, Billy Gillispie admits it's a familiar feeling.

"I'm a guy who 16 months ago took a job at Texas-El Paso and an impossible situation. We turned the impossible into a storybook season," Gillispie said Wednesday after accepting the A&M job. "This is not an impossible situation. This is an unbelievable opportunity."

Gillispie, who took Texas-El Paso from 24 losses to 24 wins and nearly defeated Maryland in the NCAA Tournament, agreed to a six-year contract that guarantees him $585,000 annually. He could earn as much as $880,000 with incentives. He made $145,000 a year at UTEP.

Gillispie would be worth every penny to the Aggies if he can reverse their fortunes.

"We are going to build champions," athletic director Bill Byrne said. "We are going to invest in basketball."

Texas A&M was 0-16 in the Big 12 last season and hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1987. The Aggies haven't had a winning season since 1994.

"There is absolutely no reason we're not going to win here," Gillispie said. "It's just going to take a little time."

Gillispie, 44, replaces Melvin Watkins, who was 60-111 in his six seasons with the Aggies.

Watkins resigned this month after the Aggies went 7-21. The Aggies lost in the first round of the conference tournament in Watkins' last game.

Gillispie became coach at UTEP in November 2002 after eight years as a Division I assistant, the last five at Tulsa and Illinois under current Kansas coach Bill Self. He was an assistant at Baylor from 1994-97.



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