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By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — Billy Gillispie says he has no regrets about his two years at Kentucky and harbors no ill feelings toward the University of Kentucky even though he was fired Friday two years into his seven-year contract.
Gillispie answered questions for 40 minutes Saturday in a press conference he called at the Marriott Griffin Gate.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tough times donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t last. I am pretty tough and looking forward to moving on,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Gillispie, who was 40-27 in his two years at Kentucky.
Gillispie said he is not a Ã¢â‚¬Å“woe is me kind of personÃ¢â‚¬Â and that he tried to work his hardest daily for the UK basketball program.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have had a great time here at Kentucky. What a great place Lexington is. I have two great loves, basketball and horse racing,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gillispie said.
He said he wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worried about whether two years was long enough to fairly judge his job performance at Kentucky.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really spend much time thinking about those kind of things and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care to be around people who do. I like being around positive people,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gillispie said.
On Friday, both UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and president Lee Todd said Gillispie was dismissed because he was not the Ã¢â‚¬Å“right fitÃ¢â‚¬Â for the Kentucky program.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what other people say. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t control what people say. I have been loyal and hardworking. I gave honest dayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s work and more. Not the right fit is someone elseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s opinion,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gillispie said.
Gillispie, who joked and smiled often during the press conference, said the only thing he wishes he could have done differently would have been to win more games.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When you get a chance to coach at Kentucky, there is not a better place ever to coach. I had a chance to work with a lot of great players. I love those players,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gillispie said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think they are really read to take off with another piece or two. Those pieces (recruits) are on the way and they have to make sure they get here. With a number of good players coming back and with the new players coming in they will be right back where they want.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Gillispie said when he met with Todd before the season ended, he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know his job was on the line. He also said he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t remember Todd or Barnhart expressing concerns to him that he wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t doing enough away from the basketball court.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I enjoy the public. I love this town and city,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gillispie said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I love the people here.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My No. 1 responsibility was to coach and recruit. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think a celebrity is what you declare yourself to be. That is what someone else declares you to be. I never declined to sign an autograph or ball. I was out and about more than anybody. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nobody home to cook for me. I am out about every single night.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There are no hard feelings here. Any time you have an employer, you work at their mercy. I understand the responsibility they have and the responsibility I have. That is the way it goes.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Gillispie described himself as a Ã¢â‚¬Å“company manÃ¢â‚¬Â who tried to do what he was told and says he can leave here with fond memories of his two years.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am the luckiest guy that has ever lived. No one is any more lucky or blessed than me. Sixteen years ago I was a high school coach,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have had the opportunity to coach at three great places.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am telling you. I am the luckiest guy. I will keep on being lucky. This is just a small bump in the road, not an ending.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Gillispie said it was hard to meet with his players Friday after he was fired to tell them good-bye.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I love those guys. They practice as hard as any group I have ever had,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gillispie said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I told those guys whoever the next guy is, you play your tail off for him like you did for me. My phone number is not going to change. I will be available for the rest of my life and be there and have your back. I love them. That is why you coach.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He joked that the players would handle the change much easier than older folks would.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“They will be fine. I know I will miss them,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Gillispie avoided any harsh words for Barnhart, the man who hired him away from Texas A&M two years ago.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I like Mitch. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have too many people I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like. Sometimes people donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like you. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t dislike very many people in this world,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gillispie said.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœI harbor no ill feelings toward anyone. Life is too short to carry around grudges. Just because I leave Kentucky and they go another direction does not mean it has to be a bad deal. Sometimes for whatever reason, people want go in a different direction and people have a right to do that.Ã¢â‚¬Â