Little did Walker know that Gillispie would alienate his players, causing a mini-uprising and be stricken with severe health issues. And little did he know that combination would be so volatile that Gillispie would be out and he would take over as the team’s interim coach — his first head-coaching job after 17 years as an assistant at various programs.
”I’m very thankful that Texas Tech and (athletic director) Kirby Hocutt have given me this opportunity,” Walker said a few hours after learning he was tapped for the post. ”It means everything to me.”
Walker and Hocutt have a verbal agreement for a six-month contract as interim coach. Hocutt said details of the agreement would be available once a contract is signed.
Gillispie resigned Sept. 20, citing health concerns and with the university investigating allegations that he mistreated some of his players. He led the Red Raiders to an 8-23 record in his only season in Lubbock.
Hocutt said the interim job was ”attractive” to many at the college and NBA level.
”But it became clear over the course of the last couple of weeks, when you see the energy, when you see the determination, when you see the attitude of this group of young men, that the best decision for this basketball program was to stay in-house and to elevate Chris Walker to this role,” Hocutt said.
Walker took over day-to-day operations of the program Sept. 7 after Hocutt told Gillispie he needed to focus on his health.
Hocutt said that a report on its investigation into allegations of additional practice-time violations than ones previously reported to the NCAA has been submitted to the governing body. He declined to comment further.
Junior Jaye Crockett, the team’s third-leading scorer from last season at 8.8 points per game, said the past month hasn’t been too difficult.
”It’s a struggle because it’s a different situation, but I don’t think it’s hard,” he said. ”We’ve all been a family. We’ve been focused on working out and being the best team we can be this year.”
Hocutt declined to speculate on whether Walker could become the permanent head coach after this season.
Walker came to the program last year after two seasons at his alma mater Villanova, where he was an assistant under Jay Wright. He has 17 years of collegiate coaching experience, including four teams that went to the NCAA tournament – Villanova twice, Vanderbilt and Pepperdine.
Before coaching at Villanova, Walker was an assistant for Steve Alford for two years at New Mexico.
Gillispie’s team had only one Big 12 win last season in Texas Tech’s worst season since 1990-91.
In January, the school reprimanded Gillispie and assistant coach Brooks Jennings after a review found the team had exceeded practice-time limits in 2011. The school reported the secondary violation to the NCAA and penalized itself by reducing the team’s practice time by about 12 hours.
Gillispie was hospitalized Aug. 31 for six days after calling 911 just hours before he was to meet with Hocutt to discuss allegations of player mistreatment. Several players had gone to talk to Hocutt two days earlier to complain about Gillispie’s mistreatment of players.