LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Rewind back to March of 2007. Stan
Heath had just been fired by Arkansas, and one name kept popping up
in connection with the Razorbacks' coaching job: Billy Gillispie.
That talk turned out to be premature. Gillispie did leave Texas
A&M, but for Kentucky, not Arkansas. The Razorbacks ended up hiring
John Pelphrey - the same John Pelphrey who made a name for himself
as a Kentucky player during the early 1990s.
Gillispie and Pelphrey will coach against each other Saturday
when the Razorbacks host the Wildcats, and their unusual career
paths have added some extra intrigue to what was already one of the
Southeastern Conference's best rivalries.
Gillispie insists talk of him taking the Arkansas job was
"I never talked to anyone over at Arkansas. There's always a
lot of speculation on things," he said. "I never, ever spoke to
anyone over there."
But at the time, Arkansas made no secret of its pursuit of
Gillispie. It was only after Texas A&M announced it had agreed with
Gillispie on a new contract that Arkansas hired someone else.
Actually, the Razorbacks hired two other coaches. Dana Altman
took the job first, then backed out of it. Pelphrey was brought in
a week later.
In the middle of all that, Gillispie did leave Texas A&M to take
over at Kentucky. Frank Broyles, who was Arkansas' athletic
director at the time, said Pelphrey had been on Kentucky's short
list too - but Pelphrey downplayed his interest in coaching at his
He's also already faced the emotions of returning to Kentucky as
the Arkansas coach. Last season, the host Wildcats beat the Hogs
"I didn't talk to our team one time last year about where I
played," Pelphrey said. "It's not about me. It's Arkansas and
Kentucky. It's their game."
It's possible neither team will be at full strength this
weekend. Pelphrey suspended starting point guard Courtney Fortson
indefinitely Thursday - he didn't give specifics as to why.
Fortson, a freshman, is averaging 14.6 points per game.
Without Fortson, Arkansas (13-9, 1-8 SEC) figures to depend even
more on big man Michael Washington and a home crowd at Bud Walton
Arena that helped the Razorbacks knock off Oklahoma and Texas
earlier in the season.
Kentucky center Patrick Patterson sprained his right ankle in
Tuesday night's win over Florida. Gillispie said Thursday he wasn't
sure about Patterson's status.
"We're going to prepare like he plays," Pelphrey said.
Kentucky (17-7, 6-3) edged Florida 68-65 on a last-second
3-pointer by Jodie Meeks.
"It was a great win. We showed the heart of a champion," Meeks
said. "Even when we were down we didn't quit. With the team
working that hard to get a win, it was great for us."
Meeks leads the SEC at 25 points per game, including a 54-point
performance at Tennessee last month.