Tx Tech ready for season after Gillispie departure

Texas Tech coach Chris Walker is working quickly to teach his

players what he wants to see when the season begins.

He doesn’t have much time.

Walker was named the interim coach on Oct. 4, taking over a

struggling Red Raiders program two weeks after Billy Gillispie

resigned for health reasons. It probably won’t be difficult to

follow Gillispie’s lone season with Texas Tech. The Red Raiders won

just one Big 12 game last year on their way to an 8-23 record, the

program’s worst since 1990-91.

Walker, 42 and in his first head coaching job, seems to have

good rapport with players, who know they have plenty to learn about

Walker’s up-tempo style.

”I think our team has a long way to go but with Coach Walker

being the head coach, he’s really good at talking to his players

and getting the best out of his players,” sophomore guard Luke

Adams said. ”I think he’s really the right piece to get us where

we want to go.”

The Red Raiders have seven new players this season, including

two who sat out last year. One of those is 6-foot-11, 240-pound

Dejan Kravic, a junior transfer from York University in Toronto

where he averaged 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds.

With a 7-foot wingspan, he could be a strong inside compliment

to forward Jordan Tolbert, the leading scorer last year with

11.5-point average.

The Red Raiders are led by Ty Nurse, Jaye Crockett and Tolbert,

who last season combined to average 29.2 points.

There may be times the Red Raiders play with four guards,

including freshman Josh Gray, who averaged 24 points as a high

school senior in Houston. That approach plays to players’

strengths, athleticism and speed, Walker said, and allows the Red

Raiders to push the pace at both ends of the court.

”They may take a couple of shots that we may cringe at,” he

said. ”But I think that the freedom that they’re going to have to

a degree, as long as they’re shooting uncontested shots, I think is

going to free them up a little bit more to be a little bit more

confident when they shoot the ball.”

The Red Raiders want to press. When it works, it could get the

Red Raiders steals and easy layups, said Crockett, a junior who

averaged 8.8 points last season.

”Everybody’s trying to catch on right now, so it’s not looking

as good as it will be once the season starts, but I think

everyone’s getting a hold of the whole program as far as our press

on defense,” he said.

Walker worked as an associate coach under Gillispie last year.

That followed two seasons at his alma mater Villanova, where he was

an assistant under Jay Wright. He has 17 years of college 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.

Texas Tech fans had pinned their basketball hopes on Gillispie

after he turned around two other flagging Texas programs – UTEP and

Texas A&M – and they had hoped he would do the same for the Red

Raiders. But on Aug. 31 the school announced it was looking into

allegations of player mistreatment after several on the team

brought concerns about Gillispie to athletic director Kirby

Hocutt.

Gillispie, who the school reprimanded in January for exceeding

practice-time limits last season, was to meet with Hocutt on Aug.

31. But hours before their scheduled meeting Gillispie called 911.

He ended up being hospitalized twice – once in Lubbock and again at

the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., – for high blood pressure,

abnormal headaches and kidney problems.

Doctors in Minnesota ordered him avoid stress for 30 days. After

his resignation, the school said it would pay him about $467,000

for the remainder of this contract year.

Crockett is playing for his third coach since coming to Texas

Tech in 2009. He redshirted his first season and played the next

year under Gillispie’s predecessor, Pat Knight. He said

circumstances surrounding Gillispie’s departure taught the players

a lot.

”Any time someone goes through adversity it just makes you

stronger,” he said. ”It’s a learning experience. So, I believe

that’s going to help us in the long run.”