Keegan: Self made a monster in Gillispie

Wearing a white lab coat in a dark, damp basement several years ago, Bill Self, the mad scientist, created a monster on an operating table. The monster sat up straight, removed the bolts from his neck, and took a name: Billy Gillispie.

The monster is haunting his maker.

The way Gillispie has cleaned up in recruiting battles since taking over at Kentucky after Tubby Smith bolted for a less pressure-packed job at Minnesota, it’s difficult not to think that is what’s happening here. Maybe Self shouldn’t have trained Gillispie so well. Maybe he shouldn’t have shown him all his recruiting tricks.

Power forward Patrick Patterson and shooting guard Alex Legion were the two highest-rated remaining prospects in the Class of 2007 when Gillispie left Texas A&M for Kentucky. Gillispie signed them. Next, he received a commitment from KU small forward target DeAndre Liggins of the Class of 2008.

Dave Telep, national director of recruiting for, was sought out for an opinion on the monster theory.

“Bill Self didn’t create him in his basement,” Telep said. “He helped an education process of one of the rising stars in the business of college basketball. I’m sure Billy Gillispie is extremely grateful for that and would be the first to tell you that.”

Telep, who knows both coaches well, did a nice job of capturing their similarities and differences.

“I find them similar in their talent as coaches and recruiters,” Telep said. “They’re similar in work ethic, passion for recruiting, passion for basketball. Their personalities are different. Billy Gillispie is more reserved and quiet. Bill Self is more likely to be outgoing. Bill Self is the guy you see out there all the time. When he walks into a room, he can command a room. Gillispie doesn’t have as big an aura as Bill Self, but you wind up thinking there are two or three of him because he’s always around.”

Gillispie tried marriage. Not his thing. He’s single. Self is a husband and father of two. Almost to a man, reporters who have covered Self through the years enjoy his approach to that end of the job. The same can’t be said for his former understudy.

It will be interesting to track their recruiting battles in coming years. Gillispie is off to a head start.

With anywhere from five to nine players leaving after next season, Self has a lot of work ahead of him with the Class of 2008. So far, only shooting guard Travis Releford has committed.

“I think that’s a two-year project for them, a 2008, 2009 dilemma,” Telep said of replacing so many players. “You’re not going to hit the gold mine (with the class of 2008). There’s not a Darrell Arthur out there right now. … If you got five top-25 guys from 2006 and five from 2008, just by random selection, nine times out of 10, the 2006 group would be better.”

It’s a tough year to need a banner year in recruiting.

“I think it’s an average year, at best, nationally across the board,” Telep said. “Position-wise, it’s weak at the point, solid at power forward, weak at small forward, OK at two guard, thin at center.”

All of which has nothing to do with the 2007-08 season for Kansas, which could include a Final Four trip.