• By Dana Sparks

In the Loop: News story prompts kidney donation for basketball coach Billy Gillispie

May 15, 2018

basketball coach Billy Gillispie in a hospital bed before  kidney transplant surgeryWhen Ericka Downey saw a tweet about college basketball coach Billy Gillispie needing a kidney transplant, she was determined to find him a donor. She didn't have to go far.


Ericka Downey never envisioned meeting Billy Gillispie like this. Her emotions started to swell as her husband, Mark, led the former Texas A&M and Kentucky men's basketball coach to meet her in a crowded room during last month's Final Four weekend. Coach Gillispie cracked first. "I'm going to start crying," he said, as USA Today reports.

Ericka waved her two young sons over to meet the coach, the paper reports. "He's the guy I'm giving my kidney to," she told them.

The Dallas Morning News reports that this past December, Ericka came across a news story on Twitter about Coach Gillispie being in desperate need of a kidney transplant. After reading the story, Ericka told her husband, the head basketball coach at Northeastern State, about the story. Mark Downey has known Gillispie for years. "I was watching TV, and she came and nonchalantly started talking about Billy," he tells the paper. "And then told me he was in renal failure."

Ericka also told her husband that she'd retweeted Billy's story and was determined to do whatever she could to raise awareness of his situation and find him a donor. She then "strongly encouraged" Mark to do the same, according to the Dallas Morning News. "She's a woman of big ideas," he tells the paper.
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This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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