Pat Kelsey had an introductory press conference at UMass scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday.
At 3:30 p.m., UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford received a phone call from Kelsey, who said he wanted to back out of his agreement to take over the school’s basketball program. Press, school administrators, fans, a pep band and cheerleaders had gathered, only to be told the press conference was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.
Kelsey is staying at Winthrop.
“UMass is an amazing program with a winning tradition and a bright future that any coach would be proud to be a part of,” Kelsey said in a news release from Winthrop. “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.
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“I look forward to being back at the Coliseum, and leading my team as we look to win another Big South championship.”
Over the past five years Pat Kelsey has had an incredibly positive impact on Winthrop and our Athletic Department. His leadership of the young men on his teams both on and off the court has been commendable and we all look forward to continued success for Pat and Winthrop men’s basketball.
Winthrop AD Ken Halpin
That left Bamford looking for a new basketball coach for the second time this week.
“After speaking with Pat about his decision, I honored his request and we are now working through how this impacts our executed Memorandum of Understanding,” Bamford said. “In my conversation with Pat, he made it clear that his reasons were very personal and upon his request, I will honor our confidential conversation.”
Bamford later told local media that Kelsey’s contract included a $1 million buyout if he left within the first two years of the five-year deal he signed with UMass. Bamford said it isn’t clear how that stipulation will be resolved.
A UMass statement included comments from Kelsey, who announced on Tuesday he was leaving Winthrop after five seasons to take the UMass job:
“For personal reasons, I have asked the University of Massachusetts to allow me to be released from the offer I accepted to be the head men’s basketball coach. To be clear, this decision is entirely personal, and in no way an assessment of the commitment UMass made to me personally or to the resources available at UMass to have a nationally-recognized program.
“I apologize to Chancellor Subbaswamy, Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford, members of the basketball program and the UMass community who embraced my appointment this week and made me feel welcome since arriving on campus yesterday,” the statement said.
UMass hired Kelsey five days after Winthrop lost to Butler in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Kelsey was 102-59 during his initial tenure in Rock Hill, and got the Eagles back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
Kelsey’s decision is eerily similar to Gregg Marshall’s in 2006, when he accepted the College of Charleston job and completed the introductory press conference. He changed his mind on the way back to Rock Hill and was taken back by president Anthony DiGiorgio and the team.
The 2006-07 Winthrop team went on to win 29 games, reach the NCAA Tournament and knock off Notre Dame, the only tournament win in the school’s history.