Pat Kelsey is making believers quickly among the legions of Louisville basketball fans (MIke DeZarn photo).
Pat Kelsey catches up with Matt McGavic (left). of the Louisville Report and UofL play-by-play announcer Paul Rogers (Mike DeZarn photo).

I had my questions since it was obvious the latest Louisville Men’s Basketball experiment was circling the drain. Who was out there? What were their qualifications and hardware? When had they last been relevant or been to the top of the mountain? Where would they “crawl to Louisville” from? How could they bring back the winning? Draw back in the fan base?

So many questions have been haunting the Louisville fanbase for over a year now on who’s next. When the head coaching job for Louisville Men’s Basketball was flipped a complete 180 degrees from the lethargic, toxic regime from the last two years to the boundless future of the endless energy of the Pat Kelsey Express Train on espresso, it finally dawned on me that Louisville might have stumbled into exactly what it needs.

Needed was an energizer. A spark to reignite a dormant, beleaguered giant of a program and fan base.

The rumors were flying as fast as the coaching leaderboard was changing and as quick as my mind was trying to pin down the best choice.

Scott Drew was the big game Bear. He had a championship pedigree. Built a desolate Baylor program from a horrific, scandal-plagued cesspool to the top of the mountain. He could do the job, no question. Or could he? If UofL had doubled his salary and resources, would he still have that drive to get back to the apogee? Would the salary bump be enough to motivate him to put in what it took? Or would he be fat and happy, on cruise control? Even Candidate 1A was saddled with a giant question mark, or more.

Dusty May was next. Was his run to the Final Four legit? He squeaked by Memphis in the first-round game of that March Madness. If he falls there, do we know who he is today? What if his second-round opponent wasn’t Fairleigh Dickinson, and instead was a Purdue juggernaut? Could he have made the Sweet Sixteen? Was his Cinderella run a coaching clinic or collection of lucky bounces? Did he have what it took to make a run like that at a historically top-ten school? The vocals of the fanbase, the proponents and the detractors, were coming to grips with having another important May in the city. We will never know, at least in The Ville, because he took his wishy-wash to Ann Arbor.

National Championship coaches like Jay Wright and Billy Donovan’s essences were thrown in the mix, even if unrealistically. Those two supposed “grand slams” of choices had question marks of their own, believe it or not. Wright’s made plenty of money winning titles at Villanova. Generational-type wealth. Would he come back for a big fat payday? And he’d been out of the game for so long, would he even be a shell of his old self? Could Donovan be stolen from a NBA bench mid-season? If not, could UofL wait until the end of the pro calendar? Probably not to both. But even if Athletic Director Josh Heird couped the miracle of all miracles, Billy the Kid had been out of the college game longer than Wright. Pipe dreams, at best, for both.  Even more catechisms for both.

But like the underdog hiding in the shadows of the 11th hour, Cardinal legacy assistant coach and ratherish prodigal son Richard Pitino be sliding in as slick as his father’s hair to take the reigns in the ultimate savior story. But the questions about him abounded maybe more than the aforementioned applicants. Was he more than his surname? Why did he fail at Minnesota? Was it him or was it just a tough place for a youngun to cut his chops in a brutal Big Ten? Was his resurfacing in the desert an evolution or natural progression into a more experienced coach, or was it an easier venue to stack W’s and win a conference tournament? Did he now have what it took to take over on Floyd Street?

Every other candidate had just as many ??? as all of the above. There was no Wizard of Westwood protégé waiting in the wings. There was no obvious answer as there was when Rick Pitino strolled in from Boston riding a wave of unheralded villain-to-savior vibes. Who was the choice that was “crawling to be at Louisville?”

Heird seemingly struck out with option 1 (Drew), option 2 (May) and some other peripheries that may or may not have entertained offers, but all indicators indicated he was on his choice three, and the clock was ticking with the diehards.

Figuratively, on his hands and knees, Kelsey finally crawled from the College of Charleston to the YUM! Center Thursday afternoon to be introduced as the new head coach.

Literally though, he probably actually has the energy to crawl the 615 miles from the east coast to downtown. And that was on full display Thursday afternoon, as he “won the press conference” (excuse the cliché, but he really, really did).

The new Louisville coach gets acquainted with UofL Volleyball Coach Dani Busboom-Kelly (Mike DeZarn photo).He is still a coaching kid. At 48 years old, he’s not young, but in his profession he’s still getting warmed up. In 12 years as a head coach he’s won 11 conference regular seasons and tournaments. That shows that he’s doing something right.

He doesn’t have the awe-inspiring, “look who just walked in the room” persona that Rick had/still has, but he’s got that same passion on the sidelines and in the practice facilities that seems to make greatness gravitate to him. By all accounts, he’s embracing the landscape-shifting transfer portal and NIL in the same way vintage Rick embraced how the introduction of the 3-point line evolved the college game to rise to the top. A similar upward linear path could be on the table for Kelsey with UofL’s resources.

He just exudes hunger and drive. Watch the press conference. My fingers and words don’t do it justice.

And he just wins. An almost .700 winning percentage at his two previous stops, Winthrop and CoC. Not basketball juggernauts by any means, but even with those limitations, has a 5-2 tournament appearance advantage over big ole UofL in the timeframe of his head-coaching window.

He even killed the elephant in the room, joking that he not only was Josh Heird’s third choice, he was his wife’s third choice, as well. That level of humility contrasted, no, highlighted just how much he revered his new gig. He is our mysterious and finally unmasked crawler.

Who? What? When? Where? How?

I think we might have found our answer. From CKP to CPK. The ultimate reversal to answer the ultimate question.

Go Cards, finally and again.


The new Louisville coach gets acquainted with UofL Volleyball Coach Dani Busboom-Kelly (Mike DeZarn photo).
Share this

By Steve Springer

Steve Springer is a lifelong University of Louisville fan and was Volvo's "Biggest Fan of the Big East" in 2011. He's a sportswriter for the Murray Ledger & Times, in addition to teaching physical education. He graduated from Eastern High School, earned a Master's degree from the University of Louisville and his BS degree at Murray State University. His Twitter handle is @racercard.

One thought on “Kelsey the guy? Questions getting answered”
  1. For me, as I remember Lee Corso coaching the football team, this hiring has a familiar vibe. Kelsey, like Corso, is unapologetically not self conscious. He is a force. I watched a video of him being driven around Charleston (on campus?) handing out T-shirts, asking if the random pedestrians he passed were coming to the (sold out?) game while also promoting a special ticket (future games?) whose purchase included a free T-shirt and a booble head of him, it was an amazing bit of community outreach and advertisement. The man looked and sounded like a winner.
    Like Corso, he may not turn out to be the best Coach we’ve ever had, but, he will bring excitement. And, I, for one, and doubtless I am not alone, am looking forward to UofL basketball once again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.