Pat Kelsey, who on Tuesday agreed to coach UMass’ basketball program after being lured away from Winthrop, will not coach the Minutemen.
In fact, Kelsey will return to Winthrop and remain the Eagles coach, the school announced Thursday afternoon.
ESPN first reported Thursday afternoon that Kelsey — who, when the news broke, was less than 20 minutes away from the scheduled start of his introductory press conference as Minutemen head coach in Amherst — had a change of heart.
The Kelsey-to-UMass back-out came as a shocker in part because the move was applauded across college basketball. Kelsey was seen as a good successor to the Derek Kellogg era in Amherst. But now, UMass is in a scramble to find someone else, and it’s something of an embarrassing situation for second-year athletic director Ryan Bamford even if the situation was out of his control. A possible candidate Bamford could now turn to: Vermont’s John Becker.
Late Thursday, before Winthrop announced Kelsey would return to South Carolina to coach that program, UMass posted a press release via Twitter. The release includes a statement from Kelsey, who calls the decision “entirely personal” and not something made in regard to the university.
In Winthrop’s statement Kelsey said, “UMass is an amazing program with a winning tradition and a bright future that any coach would be proud to be a part of. But after further reflection, I have decided to remain at Winthrop. I realized that at this point in my career Winthrop and Rock Hill is the best place for my family and me.”
Kelsey has a 102-59 through five seasons with the school and just took the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament.
It’s not unprecedented in college basketball to have a coach turn heel at the last minute, though it is unusual. Other examples of college coaches agreeing to jobs, then changing their minds in the 11th hour, both came in 2007: Dana Altman, who signed a contract with Arkansas then reneged; and Billy Donovan, who agreed to leave Florida to coach the Orlando Magic, then went back to coach the Gators after winning back-to-back national titles.
Winthrop, in fact, has dealt with waffling coaching decisions before. Current Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall had second thoughts about leaving the school at one point during his his tenure (before eventually doing so in 2007).