The Florida A&M University men’s basketball program seemed to be back on track since former head coach, Mike Gillespie Sr., took over in 2001. After many years of dismal play, Gillespie was able to lead the Rattlers to two MEAC tournament conference championships in 2004 and 2007.
But a loss to Niagara in the 2007 NCAA Tournament would be Gillespie’s last game as head coach for the Rattlers after a lengthy investigation of stalking a former girlfriend dating back to March 2005.
Gillespie was booked into the Leon County Jail on May 25 on misdemeanor stalking charges after a female victim complained to authorities of peculiar behavior involving Gillespie.
FAMU placed Gillespie on administrative leave until the outcome of the charges against him.
In an unexpected move, FAMU fired Gillespie on August 14, before the outcome of the case.
“We really didn’t know, we thought he would get everything straight and continue to be the coach,” said senior guard, Lamar Twitty, a criminal justice student from Fort Lauderdale.
On September 4, Gillespie plead no contest to the stalking charges and was placed on probation for one year.
Even though the case has come to some sort of resolution, the focus will now turn to the defending MEAC tournament champs as FAMU searches for a new coach.
A committee met on Saturday to bring the list of head coaching candidates down to five, as FAMU hopes to have a new head coach by the end of the week.
“It is important to find a new coach as soon as possible so conditioning can start, and so the coach can get to know the players before practice,” said Athletic Director, Nelson Townsend. “The committee worked quickly and I am very happy for their work.
The committee includes junior guard Joe Ballard, A.D. Nelson Townsend, Professor William Ravenell, journalism professor Valerie White, Senator Al Lawson, FAMU Vice President of Student Affairs Roland Gaines, FAMU Director of Equal Opportunity Programs Carrie Gavin, and FAMU Director of Alumni Affairs Carmen Cummings-Martin. Senator Lawson, an alumn of FAMU, has a vast knowledge on recruitment and a big influence on who will be selected as the next coach for the Ratters.
“He is knowledgeable of basketball and who is a key supporter, and has been a strong booster over the years,” said Townsend. Even though Townsend will make the final decision on who will carry the torch as the next men’s basketball coach, Lawson will assist him and probably be a part of the interview process. “This is a successful program and it is important to get someone who can build on the success especially since we are getting a new gym, those seats have to be filled,” said Lawson. As of Sept. 11, workouts were scheduled to begin for the Rattlers.
“As soon as everyone gets their physical we can begin conditioning, weightlifting, and individual workouts between and after class,” said Twitty.
According to the athletic department a new coach should be named sometime this week.