King U tabs Gillespie as new Head Men’s Basketball Coach

King University Director of Athletics, David Hicks announced the hire of Jason Gillespie as head men’s basketball coach on Tuesday morning. Gillespie was an assistant coach for the Tornado in the early 2000s before stints at Cincinnati Christian University, Bluefield College and most recently Reinhardt University.

“From my first interactions with Jason, it was apparent that he would be a great fit for King,” Hicks said. “With 16 years of head coaching experience at small, private institutions, it was clear he understands not only what it takes to be successful at King, but he understands that success is more than wins and losses, it is about impacting the lives of the young men he coaches.”

Following a three-year stint as an assistant coach at King, Gillespie’s first head coaching job came at Cincinnati Christian University where he took the Eagles to a sixth place finish at the NCCAA National Championships in his second season, 2004-05. He then spent four years at Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) member Bluefield College, leading the Rams to three 20-win seasons.

“I am blessed, excited, and honored to be named the next head men’s basketball Coach at King University,” Gillespie said. “My family and I would like to thank President Whitaker, Athletic Director David Hicks, and the search committee for giving us the opportunity to return to Bristol. Having served under Coach Polsgrove as an assistant there, and coaching against Coach Pitts’ teams during my time at Bluefield College, King’s two most recent head men’s basketball Coaches are two of the best I have ever been around. To be trusted with taking over that seat is a task that I am highly honored to be chosen for.”

Gillespie led the Rams to a school record 27 wins in 2008-09, as the Rams made three straight NAIA National Championship berths. That marked the first time in school history any sport had qualified for the NAIA National Championships for three straight years, and has yet to be achieved again. He was twice named AAC Coach of the Year in his four years leading Bluefield.

“We have a challenge on our hands in replacing the great group of seniors that helped take the Tornado to much success in recent years,” Gillespie continued. “I am definitely looking forward to working with Coach Phelps and Coach Gallishaw, two coaches that I have heard a lot of good things about,  in figuring out where our needs lie and will rely on their input and expertise.”

The 2008-09 team ranked in the NAIA’s top 10 in 14 statistical categories while running through the AAC with a perfect 18-0 record. The year prior, Gillespie’s squad won 25 games while leading the NAIA in scoring and steals as the Rams poured in 94.4 points per game. Bluefield also ranked second in the country in three-point field goals and assists.

“While I already knew he was a great fit for King, the more time I spent with him, and the more I spoke with others who know him, two other things became evident,” continued Hicks. “He is a man of great faith in Christ, who lives that faith out in his daily life and desires to impact those whom he leads, and he is an incredible basketball coach.”

Gillespie then returned to Cincinnati Christian as the men’s basketball coach and athletic director to help guide the athletic department into NAIA membership. Following three years there, he returned to a familiar place, the AAC, this time at Reinhardt University.

“He’s had success every place he’s coached, and many King fans will remember his Bluefield teams that came to Bristol, and the hard fought battles between the schools. He’s a student of the game, and I could not be more excited for the future of King basketball.”

Under Gillespie’s tutelage, the Eagles improved from 11 wins his first season to 18 each of the next two years and posted winning records for five straight seasons. In 2016-17, he led Reinhardt to a 22-10 record, finishing second in the AAC standings as the Eagles received votes in the national poll.

Over his tenure at Reinhardt, the Eagles regularly ranked among the nation’s leaders in scoring, and qualified for the NAIA National Championship twice. The Eagles ranked sixth in the NAIA in 2016-17 and fourth in 2017-18, pouring in more than 90 points per game each year. In his final season, the Eagles led the NAIA in turnover margin, a season after ranking second in the country in that category.

“My wife Cindy and I have a long-standing history in the Tri-Cities,” finished Gillespie. “We met and were married here, and look forward to being able to raise our three children in such a great area.”

Gillespie earned his Bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University in 1997 before earning his Master’s from Tennessee Technological University in 2000.

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