Senior Writer

Rising star Kelsey quit for all the right reasons


Pat Kelsey's retirement from college coaching received a decent amount of attention in the world of basketball this week, but beyond that almost nothing. It wasn't a headline on any of the nation's biggest websites; I don't think it made SportsCenter, either. But the development might have been the most interesting retirement in coaching this offseason because it involves a 36-year-old rising star who simply decided he had had enough.

Enough long days in gyms.

Enough lonely nights in hotels.

Enough time away from his family.

So Kelsey announced he's walking away.

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"My role as a father and husband is everything to me," he said. "The rigors of this business can make that challenging."

To understand why this is eye-opening you have to understand that Kelsey wasn't just any assistant coach. He was the associate head coach at Xavier-- a young and respected gentleman on his way to becoming a Division I head coach. That means Kelsey was on the path to possible fame and probable fortune. And yet he knew such things would almost certainly come with a price he wouldn't be willing to pay, so he walked, quietly, on a random afternoon.

It should startle other college coaches.

What does it say about the business when a man doubts he can be a good husband while also being a good college coach? What does it say about the business when a man wonders what he'll miss as a father if he continues in the profession? What does it say about the business when a man watches his old boss, Skip Prosser, die in an office during the grueling travel schedule of the annual July recruiting period and questions whether it's dangerous to live the life?

Kelsey was an assistant at Wake Forest under Skip Prosser in 2007 when Prosser died from a heart attack at 56. (  
Kelsey was an assistant at Wake Forest under Skip Prosser in 2007 when Prosser died from a heart attack at 56. (    
Kelsey was an assistant at Wake Forest in July 2007, you see. He witnessed Prosser's death and acknowledged upon retirement that it impacted him greatly. The visual of watching his friend become a possible casualty of the modern-era grind of college coaching has never left. That combined with the time spent away from home combined with the reality that high-major coaching no longer has very much to do with coaching -- it's more about marketing and cutting sometimes questionable deals with sometimes questionable characters to get recruits -- was enough to make Kelsey reevaluate everything.

So now he's looking for work outside of basketball.

And I applaud him.

At a time when far too many college basketball coaches -- not to mention college basketball writers -- work stupid hours and determine their self-worth by the size of their paychecks, by the number of times they get recognized on a street, by how many Twitter followers they've accumulated, Kelsey is an example of someone with true priorities. He doesn't just say "family first." He's putting his family first in a very real way.

Which is not to suggest all coaches are unbalanced.

They're not.

Butler's Brad Stevens and Gonzaga's Mark Few, just to name two, are examples of men who seem to have figured out a way to be a good coach, good husband and good father. I once called Stevens and he answered while running errands for his wife right in the middle of basketball season. Few once canceled a breakfast with me because he was taking his children for a morning walk along the Mississippi River while his wife got away for a few hours, and this was the day before Gonzaga played North Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the 2009 NCAA tournament in Memphis. Granted, those are just two stories. But they're not random or isolated stories for those two men, and they're not exclusive to them, either. Other guys are also good. But there's no denying that late-night film sessions, nonstop phone calls and constant travel make it difficult for coaches to balance their jobs and personal lives.

At least there was no denying it for Kelsey.

So he walked away from the profession this week and he'll be doing something else soon. He'll likely never be as famous as he would've otherwise been, and it's doubtful he'll ever be as wealthy as many of his friends. But I know a lot of famous and wealthy men with huge regrets, and I respect that Pat Kelsey didn't want to become one of them.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

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