Former Kentucky coach Gillispie charged with DUI
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — Former Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie was arraigned on a drunken driving charge Thursday after refusing sobriety tests during an early morning traffic stop in which officers said they smelled alcohol on his breath.
Police say they arrested Gillespie at 2:47 a.m. along a highway in Lawrenceburg about 30 miles from Lexington, where Gillispie coached the Wildcats until he was fired in March. Charles F. O’Connor, a passenger in the car, also was arrested on a charge of alcohol intoxication in a public place.
Gillispie was jailed overnight in neighboring Franklin County and wore an orange prison jumpsuit at his video arraignment later that morning, a copy of which The Associated Press obtained. Attorney William L. Patrick entered a not guilty plea on Gillispie’s behalf.
Judge Linda Armstrong also told Gillispie his right to drive in Kentucky was being suspended for up to 120 days and set his next court appearance for Sept. 23.
Gillispie talked little during the brief hearing. When Armstrong asked if he had any questions, he replied: “No ma’am. Thank you.”
Jail records say he was released at 9:33 a.m. to the custody of Darran Winslow, a Louisville attorney. O’Connor was not arraigned Thursday.
Police responded after dispatchers received complaints of an intoxicated driver. Gillispie was driving a white Mercedes with Texas plates.
Lawrenceburg police officer Michael Corley clocked Gillispie doing 63 mph in a 45 mph zone and pulled up behind him at a red light. When the light turned green, Gillispie’s car stayed motionless for one or two minutes before continuing down the road, Corley wrote in his report.
Corley eventually pulled Gillispie over in a school parking lot.
“Billy had a strong fruity smell coming from his person (possibly wine) and had red, glassy eyes and slow, slurred speech,” Corley wrote.
Corley asked Gillispie for his license. Gillispie said it was in the trunk. The coach appeared to be unsteady on his feet, Corley wrote. When Corley asked Gillispie if he had been drinking, Gillispie replied no, that he had been golfing all day.
The report said Gillispie refused breath and blood tests for alcohol.
At a Lawrenceburg golf course near the site of the arrest, Wild Turkey Trace, Gillispie’s name did not appear on a sign-in list of Wednesday’s golfers.
Police Chief Tommy Burris said in an interview he didn’t know where Gillispie had been drinking but assumed it was somewhere outside the county and he was just passing through.
“It was just a routine DUI arrest like the guys do a dozen times a night,” Burris said. “They didn’t even know who he was until he was out of the car.”
Gillispie was replaced by Memphis coach John Calipari this year after a rocky two-year tenure in which the Wildcats went 40-27. The arrest comes five months after Gillispie was fired, and the fallout has been messy.
Gillispie sued the university in federal court in Texas, alleging that the school’s athletics department owes him $6 million for firing him two years into a seven-year agreement. The university says he never signed a formal contract and the school doesn’t owe the money.
Despite the firing, Gillispie has retained a high profile in Kentucky and was a fixture at Keeneland Race Course during its spring meet, standing in the paddock before races and talking to fans.
The arrest marks at least the third time Gillispie has been accused of driving under the influence. In 1999, Gillispie was arrested on two charges: driving while intoxicated and improper use of a lane in Tulsa, Okla., where he was an assistant coach under Bill Self.
He eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless driving. The other charges were dismissed.
In 2003, in his first year as head coach at the University of Texas-El Paso, he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. The charges eventually were dismissed after a specially appointed prosecutor decided that there was not enough evidence to suggest that Gillispie was drunk. The coach, then 43, maintained his innocence through that process.
Gillispie addressed his mistakes during his introductory press conference at Kentucky in April 2007, saying he wasn’t “proud of some of things that I’ve done.”
Associated Press Writers Roger Alford in Frankfort, Ky., and Will Graves in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.
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