Ex-Kentucky coach fined, loses license

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. -- Former University of Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie pleaded guilty Monday to driving under the influence of alcohol and apologized for what he called a mistake.

Gillispie, wearing a dark suit and yellow tie at the hearing in Anderson County District Court, accepted a plea bargain, which included fines and court costs of more than $1,000, a 30-day suspension of his driver's license and an agreement to complete an Alcohol Drivers Education Program.

During the brief hearing, Gillispie gave one-word answers to questions from Judge Linda Armstrong about whether he understood his rights and the consequences of the plea.

Gillispie filled out paperwork in an undisclosed location in the courthouse, then made no comment to reporters as he darted out the side entrance and got into a car carrying his attorney, William Patrick.

Patrick said Gillispie had left the state by midday but otherwise declined to comment beyond a statement, which included Gillispie's apology and pointed out the coach had received the maximum fine for a first-time DUI offender in Kentucky.

"I made a mistake and admitted my mistake today to Judge Armstrong, and I accept the penalty she has imposed," Gillispie said in the statement. "I want to apologize to the people of Kentucky, my family and friends, and I want to thank all of those who have reached out to me over the past several months with kind words of encouragement and support."

Anderson County Attorney Bobbi Jo Lewis declined to comment after the hearing, instead issuing a statement in which she called the penalty "fair and equitable."

"Mr. Gillispie has been treated the same as any other person who appears before the Anderson District Court charged as he was -- no better and no worse," Lewis said.

Gillispie's plea came the same day his successor, John Calipari, was preparing to lead the No. 4 Wildcats in their season-opening exhibition game against Campbellsville.

Gillispie was fired this year after a rocky two-year tenure with the Wildcats. He was arrested Aug. 27 in Lawrenceburg and charged with DUI after refusing sobriety tests during a traffic stop in which officers said they smelled alcohol on his breath.

Patrick had said previously that Gillispie checked himself into the John Lucas Athletes After Care Program in Texas for alcohol rehabilitation, but it was unclear how long he spent there.

The arrest marks at least the third time Gillispie has been accused of driving under the influence, but this was the first resulting in a plea of guilty to DUI.

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."