To hoops junkies, being a college basketball coach sounds like a dream gig. You immerse yourself in the game you love. You thrive in a position of authority and inherent respect. You define the life trajectory of hundreds of young men. You pack an office with truckloads of knickknacks and memorabilia. You make anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year.
There's a reason so many young graduate assistants and college-age hopefuls throw themselves at the mercy of the oversaturated coaching job market each and every year. More often than not, it's worth it.
The position isn't all glamour, though. Think of all it requires: long hours. Constant attention. Obsessive study. Subservience to the cynical recruiting landscape. Unceasing Blackberry addiction. The knowledge that, when you really get down to it, your job, your livelihood, your position of prestige -- whatever success you've managed to attain in your professional career -- hinges on the waffling whims of 17-year-old kids. And even if you reach the top of your profession, even if you're Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or Bob Knight, there's always a thousand driven hopefuls willing to go that extra step to knock you down a peg. The job never gets easier. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Is the dream job worth all that it requires? Most coaches seem to think so. But every so often, someone proves that that's not always the case. Today, that coach is Xavier assistant Pat Kelsey, who told the Sporting News that he's not only decided to step away from his promising gig with the Musketeers, he is leaving the game of basketball entirely:
"For a long time, I have struggled internally with this decision,” Kelsey said in a statement. “Four years ago, I witnessed firsthand Coach Prosser's death in the basketball office at Wake Forest. That day, my perspective on the profession and life was forever altered.
"My role as a father and husband is everything to me, and the rigors of this business can make that challenging.”
“Nowadays, college basketball is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the balance between career and family can be difficult,” Mack said. “I respect and, in many ways, understand his decision to put family first. Kels will always be part of the Xavier basketball family even as he moves in a different direction professionally.”
According to Kelsey, he isn't just taking some time off, recharging the batteries for a few months in an effort to prevent long-term burnout. No, Kelsey says he's done with college hoops for good, and will now seek employment outside the game of basketball. (Kelsey has a degree in business administration, which should be useful in a still-challenging job market these next few months.) What that employment will be is uncertain, but Kelsey is looking for something that won't require him to choose between a profession and a life.
To use a bit of hoops parlance, you have to respect the call. Quitting your job for the sake of personal desire is not a decision many -- whether a coach or a cubicle drone or a post office worker or insert-your-own-profession-here -- would be able to make. It must be especially difficult for a competitive coach. But most of us can identify.