Mike Gillespie came home this week to do something he loves.
A native of Georgetown and former resident of Frankfort, Gillespie has been in town for the NAIA Div. I Women’s Basketball National Championship, serving as the tournament’s public address announcer for the 23rd year.
Gillespie, a graduate of Georgetown High School, served as the youth minister at Capital City Christian Church from 1977-81.
“I have a lot of fond memories of Frankfort,” he said during a break in tournament action last week. “I’ve seen a couple people I know, a couple of people from Capital City Christian. It’s really nice to see how things have changed.
“When I was here in 1977 rush hour started at 3:45,” he added. “If weren’t on your way by then you wouldn’t get home until 5:30.
“With all the new roads that’s a lot better.”
Gillespie now lives in Munster, Ind., where he’s the senior minister at South Side Christian Church.
It was while serving at a church in Jackson, Tenn., that he became involved with the NAIA tournament.
The tournament had a 22-year run in Jackson before moving to Frankfort this year. Gillespie was the PA announcer in Jackson for the entire run the tournament had there, even when he wasn’t living there.
“Jackson was a fun place to live,” said Gillespie, who resided there for nine years. “Staying involved I got to go back and see everybody from the tournament and from church.”
Gillespie has enjoyed the gig so much that every time he moved to a different church he made it part of the deal that he could be off to work the NAIA tournament.
His interest in calling games began when he was a student at Louisville Bible College.
“When I was in college I saw every state (high school) tournament game for five years and didn’t miss a class,” Gillespie said. “When games got boring I’d listen to the announcer, a man named John Tong. I’d listen to him and think that’s something I’d like to do.
“If I ever got the chance to do that I’d like to.”
That chance came when his oldest son, Jason, started playing basketball in junior high.
“I went to the principal and said, ‘let me do this (announce), and I won’t embarrass you. If I sit in the stands and my son gets hurt, I’ll run out on the court and embarrass everyone.’”
Since then he’s been the PA announcer for 16 different colleges and universities, and he currently works with women’s volleyball at Valparaiso University.
But no matter what’s on his schedule he makes time for the NAIA women’s tournament.
“I think women’s basketball is a little bit better team game,” Gillespie said. “The estrogen seems to make them a better team. With the testosterone in the men’s game, they want to take it to the rack, slam dunk, go one-on-one.
“The women seem to get a lot of enjoyment playing a team game, and that’s what makes it fun.”
Gillespie and his wife, Brenda, have three sons. Jason is a basketball coach at Cincinnati Christian University, Jeremy is a train dispatcher in Knoxville, Tenn., and Justin is a church planter in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“They’re involved in three of my favorite things – basketball, trains and preaching – and my wife still loves us all,” Gillespie said.
Even Gillespie, who will be spending his wedding anniversary calling the championship game of the tournament Tuesday night.