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Pat Kelsey says no to UMass job, will return as Winthrop coach

Men's College Basketball, Massachusetts Minutemen, Winthrop Eagles

Pat Kelsey had a change of heart and will not take the UMass coaching job, citing "personal reasons" for his decision. He instead will return to Winthrop, where he has coached for the past five seasons.  

Kelsey had signed a contract to coach at UMass on Tuesday. Athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement that Kelsey asked to be released from that contract at 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday -- 30 minutes before he was scheduled to be introduced in Amherst. 

"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," Kelsey said in a statement.

"I apologize to Chancellor [Kumble] 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."

Bamford said he accepted Kelsey's decision after discussing the situation with him.

"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. Pat stressed that his decision was not based on the University of Massachusetts or our basketball program. Again, his reasons were personal in nature. I know that the unforeseen circumstances surrounding his decision were not in our control," Bamford said in the statement.

"At this time, we will resume our search for the next leader of our program. I am confident that we will hire a remarkable coach who will return our program to national prominence."

Later Thursday, Winthrop announced that Kelsey would return to the same position, with the coach saying in a news release: "I realized that at this point in my career Winthrop and Rock Hill is the best place for my family and me." 

Kelsey and UMass still will need to resolve the buyout that was included in the contract he signed.

"The memorandum of understanding has a buyout clause," Bamford said. "It doesn't speak to specific jobs. It just speaks to his responsibility to buy the contract out once he has executed that agreement. For the first two years of the execution, it is $1 million. We have to work through that piece."

At a news conference Thursday, Bamford said Kelsey had already interacted with the team.

"He met with our team yesterday," Bamford said. "I introduced him formally to them last night. He had dinner with them last night. We had planned on having one-on-one individual meetings with them over the next few days, but once he made the decision we didn't have him meet with the team after that."

This isn't the first time a Winthrop coach has abruptly left a position at another school shortly after accepting the job. Gregg Marshall did the same after his news conference at College of Charleston in 2006, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Bamford said the players were "disappointed" by Kelsey's departure.

"I told them the conversation that I had with Pat was a quick one, but the last thing I want to do was convince someone to be here," Bamford said. "We have a great job, and it didn't seem like a good fit for Pat. Once he told me that, I asked if there was anything we could do. He said it wasn't about us."

Bamford added: "I told our young men that we are going to find a great leader. I told them this was on me. As the leader of this organization, this is on me, and I take this personally. Finding our next head coach is personal to me because I owe it to the people in our department, and our student-athletes, to find somebody great."

Kelsey, 41, took Winthrop to the NCAA tournament this season. He was previously an assistant at Xavier and Wake Forest, where he worked for Skip Prosser.

Derek Kellogg was let go as head coach of UMass earlier this month after nine seasons and a 155-137 record at the school.

"We are going to find someone who wants to come here and return us to national prominence," Bamford said. "There is no doubt in my mind. This is just a road bump for us. I am disappointed because I thought we had someone who was going to take us there. I am going to tell you right now, the interest in this job, as it has been for the last two weeks, is strong. We are going to find our next leader to take us exactly where we need to go."

ESPN's Jeff Goodman contributed to this report.

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