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CofC’s Pat Kelsey Feels Blessed To Coach In Charleston

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1st Year Men’s Head Basketball Coach Brings More Than Winning Resume’ To College

By: Jeff Walker, Sports Writer

College of Charleston new men’s head basketball coach Pat Kelsey, brought more than a stellar winning resume to the program when he took over in March of this year. The Cincinnati Ohio native and 1998 Xavier graduate carried three specific things with him when he decided to become CofC’s 24th all time head coach. “I’ve always remained centered in my life. I came here with my faith, my family, and my vocation. My calling in life was to be a coach, a teacher, and a family man. We felt a calling for us to come here.”

For Kelsey it was a tough decision, especially leaving Winthrop, a program he lead for nine seasons, becoming the fifth all time winningest coach in the Big South, leading the Eagles to 20 plus wins per season during his tenure, ultimately reviving a program that had fallen off the radar after Greg Marshall departed in 2007.

Admittedly Winthrop helped shape the Kelsey family. “What I have to say about my last nine years is that it’s been an extraordinary time in my life, and that of my wife, as well as my children. We’ve pretty much raised them thus far in Rock Hill. The city and that school were great to us. It’s sad to leave, but I feel we left it better than we found it, and Wintrhop will always hold a special place in my heart and for my family.”

After previous Cougar head coach Earl Grant moved on to Boston College, the vacancy at CofC was too attractive to not pursue for Kelsey. “I always viewed this job as an elite job. In coaching circles the College of Charleston is pretty much considered a primo position. I had fellow coaches and other friends in the sports community text me right after I was offered the job saying ‘I’m jealous’. But it’s more than just the college, it’s the city and the way they view the school as part of the community.”

He adds that even his better half is a big Palmetto state fan. “My wife loves South Carolina. Like me, she’s from Ohio. But we’ve both been coming to the low country since we were very young. We used to vacation a good bit in Hilton Head. Oddly there is a big contingency of people from Cincinnati who love to go Hilton Head. So there are cars with Ohio plates all over the island. But since Charleston is so close, we’d make day trips to here and shop and dine on King Street.”

Kelsey admits there are nothing but positives about coaching at CofC and in Charleston. “When I feel the warm sun on my face, smell the palmetto trees and take in the beaches I have to pinch myself and say ‘I can’t believe they pay me to to do this job. For so many reasons, there are so many possibilities here. There’s the legacy of John Kresse, and Bobby Cremins. So many great coaches and players who’ve come through here. There’s a lot to sell here, or what I mean there’s a lot to offer both players and fans. I hope to build on an already stellar tradition here at the college.”

He understands high hopes come with the position. “Expectations come with the job, and it’s all I know. Look at my background. Started my career as a player and associate coach at Xavier, and look it up, 26 out of the last 30 NCAA tournaments. I went to Wake Forest where I was an assistant to Skip Prosser who took over for Dave Odom, two legends with two ACC championships, who placed several players into the NBA including Tim Duncan and Chris Paul. The expectations were high there, and I had a role in it. We built that into the best Wake Forest basketball.”

After studying under several legends it was time for Kelsey to shine. “Then I go on to Winthrop. Greg Marshall built that into a mid major dynasty. Obviously there was a time between when coach Marshall left and I took over where the program was down, but we quickly turned it around, and did it for nine years. So coaching is all I know. That’s why I love coaching at the College of Charleston, because you don’t want to be anywhere where there is apathy. Rather, you want to be coaching where basketball matters, and it matters here at the college.”

Kelsey knows the road ahead is never easy, and taking on high profile roles come with their own challenges. “I’m not naive to how this business works. But basketball matters here and that makes it more inviting and rewarding to me. I know schools and fans love winners, but there’s more to it than that. I believe if you build a culture, than winning follows.”

He looks to family and one particular coach that have helped shape his career. “I learned so much under Skip Prosser. Aside from my father and grandfather, Skip was one of the most influential men in my life. I took a lot from him, and was actually there on the day he passed. He was known for quoting Emerson (American poet). Skip would say and I’m paraphrasing, ‘what I want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can’. Skip was always very positive. He stayed upbeat even until the end.” At 56 years old Prosser died from a sudden heart attack in 2007.

Like his CofC predecessor Earl Grant, Kelsey sees the bigger picture. “I want to help young men grow in their lives. Men who can deal with adversity. Hopefully make them better husbands, brothers, and fathers, and just great men in general. I want them to hopefully grow in their faith. And hopefully I, and our coaching staff will lead by example. So that is what I’m passionate about.”

Kelsey brought a game plan with him to Charleston. “I understand if you loose you may get fired. That’s the side of the profession that makes my heart beat faster. Everything for us over the last seven months has been culture over strategy. Strategy is important, how we’re going to play and all. Trust me, we’re going to play fast. I’m known for offense. The numbers here at the school speak to that.”

He doesn’t have a singular focus, but understands you have to perform on and off of the court. “I’m one of those guys who thinks you can run crazy on offense and still be nasty on defense. That’s who I am. But for me it’s always more culture over strategy. It’s our way, finding our identity. It’s about how we carry ourselves and represent our school. That has to ooze out of the program, my staff and my players. It’s all about how we work, train, and compete. I hope to build a strong bond here at the college.”

He jokingly adds, “They’re not going to have the most handsome coach or the smartest coach here, but there aren’t going to be many people who have the energy or the drive . I like to think the team takes on the personality of the coach.”

As many new CofC coaches have discovered, spending time with the legendary John Kresse whose court Kelsey’s team will play on proves inspirational. “First of all he is a treasure trove of knowledge. I value every minute I spend with Coach Kresse. We’ll have a one hour scheduled breakfast at the Variety Store that literally turns into three hour meetings, where I just take notes. He has such attention to detail. He’s known in coaching circles as a one of the best execution coaches. He has such a great perspective and he’s been through so many wars (coaching matches) that it’s just incredible to listen to him. And like Skip, he’s so humble.”

Kelsey’s run-ins with former Charleston head coach Cremins are humorous at best. “I’d sit next to him back when we were both recruiting, and I’d say to myself ‘that’s Bobby Cremins’. I’m sure he didn’t know who I was back then.” The two met up again recently at an CofC event. “I said I’m Pat Kelsey, but you probably don’t remember me. Of course I was wearing sunglasses and a hat at the time. Bobby said take off that hat and glasses, and he said ‘oh yeah now I remember you’. Like Coach Kresse, Cremins is another legend, and well revered here at the college.”

Kelsey and Grant have spoken as well. “I talked to Earl over the summer. We talked about recruiting a little bit. I have so much respect for him and what he accomplished in a short period of time here. He’s such a class act. He treated people right. He carries himself the right way. He’s accomplished, so I have big shoes to fill.”

Kelsey left a Winthrop program that went 23-2 last season including a 21 game winning streak, yet leaving a successful program was not the toughest obstacle to overcome. “The actual biggest hurdle is the move itself. It’s a gigantic uprooting of your life. We moved from a place where we spent nine years. We had friends and our kids had friends. In this profession you better have a superstar at home. My wife rolls her eyes, but I say this all the time. She’s the best recruit I ever signed.” Jokingly he adds, “I hope she never enters the transfer portal.”

Off the court it is family that keeps Kelsey focused. “She’s just so supportive, and so are my children. I couldn’t do any of what I do without them. They make sacrifices. We had to move, find a new home, get the kids enrolled in school. My wife takes on a lot of the burden, because I’m trying to acclimate to a new program, build a staff, recruit. It’s a lot to maintain and balance, but my family really help keep me grounded.”

As for the team. Kelsey only returns three players from last season, with Osinachi Smart and Brendan Tucker two with solid playing experience. “Players transfer and obviously some graduate. We have 11 new players this year. We have a lot of new players that have to get used to being one unit, and used to basketball culture we’re promoting here. I call this the great experiment, because we’re taking young men who have not played together in the past and making them one team. It’s a challenge but very rewarding all at the same time.”

Kelsey is quick to point out that the Cougars are not necessarily a young team. “Yes and no. We took three grad transfers. So Dimitrius Underwood is a fifth year grad student. So he’s a senior and a 23 and a half year old kid. Dalton Bolon is a two time Division II all American, and he’s another 23 year old man, and we have John Meeks who is fifth year transfer from Bucknell who is 22, and we picked up Charles Lampten a junior college transfer who is 21. So we have some veteran players, which is a big help especially to our freshman.”

Understandably Kelsey is not at Winthrop, and the CofC board game he’s playing has a different look than it did one year ago. “It’s all new pieces, but we purposely brought in some older guys to give us some experience, some older player presence, players that have time playing college basketball. I think that’s important. Nick Farrar and Fahmir Ali come with experience and solid playing time. On top of that we have seven freshman. So all in all I believe and hope we have a really strong team right out of the gate.”

When it comes to promoting the team, Kelsey is all in. “This is my deal, because I’m a marketing guy. I love to promote. I love to sell, and I love to generate positive vibes. When I got the job at Winthrop I wanted to create our own mantra similar to ‘role Tide’. So we came up with ‘Rock the Hill’ for Rock Hill. So now that I’m here in Charleston, when I meet or speak with people I end my conversations with ‘Our City’. One of my passions is connecting our basketball program with the city, and making the Cougars their team. I try to tirelessly be out there, and be a part of the community.”

Kelsey has bracelets he hands out that say ‘Our City’ on them, and he almost always tries to send thank you cards to everyone he meets, especially business owners. “I love staying connected. I’ll walk on campus and just hand out bracelets to students. I want to help build a community here at the College of Charleston.”

He adds, “Coach Prosser described me as making coffee nervous. I have a lot of energy and hopefully no matter what the situation I try to maintain a positive outlook. I bring all that and more to the College of Charleston men’s basketball program.” Even so, he has to pinch himself most days. “I get paid to do a job I love, and now I get to do it in one of the dream cities in the country. How cool is that. I am truly blessed.”

With faith, family, and his career firmly established, the one thing Pat Kelsey says he continually tries to instill in his players is another ongoing principle. “When I see them or they pop in my office I say to them, ‘Never delay gratitude’. That’s another thing I learned from Coach Prosser. I may be a coach, and I may mentor young men, but we never stop learning.”

When he’s not consumed with his new role inside TD Arena, Kelsey does enjoy time in and around greater Charleston. He and his wife love to dine out. “I have to watch out, because I’ve met so many people who own restaurants, and there are so many great places to eat out here. Obviously one of the legendary places here is Hall’s. I took my wife there when we were looking for houses, so we both love it there.”

Other locations that make the list. “We live on Daniel Island, so mornings I’ll go to Blondie’s Bagels for a cup of coffee, and I love Orlando’s Pizza. I love having lunch over on Shem Creek. The views are always amazing. How cool is that.”

It doesn’t matter where he dines or where he’s at in the low country, Kelsey just soaks it all in. “I don’t know. I’ll text my staff because we’re all in a group text, and I’ll just say to them, ‘don’t ever let me take it for granted that we’re here’, or I’ll be driving across that iconic bridge and I’ll take in the view of the Charleston harbor, and I’ll call my wife and say I can’t believe how fortunate we are to be here. I am so blessed.”

CofC will partner with Flo Hoops a division of Flo Sports to carry many of the Cougars home game. For a complete schedule of the 2021-22 home and away game schedule visit https://cofcsports.com/sports/mens-basketball/schedule/2021-22

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  1. Pingback: CofC’s Pat Kelsey Feels Blessed To Coach In Charleston – Holy City Sinner - South Carolina Online News

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