COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Pat Kelsey stepped away from coaching basketball to handle the death of his former Xavier and Wake Forest mentor Skip Prosser. Kelsey now hopes to instill the values Prosser held so dear in the next generation of players as Winthrop's new coach.
Kelsey, 36, was hired to take over the Eagles on Thursday. He replaces Randy Peele, who was let go earlier this month after the team's second straight losing season.
Kelsey was the former Xavier point guard and Wake Forest assistant under Prosser and Dino Guadio who left the profession after 2011 because he had trouble coping with Prosser's sudden death from a heart attack in the summer of 2007. Kelsey left the Demon Deacons to join Chris Mack's staff at Xavier in 2009, yet after only two seasons needed to leave.
"The death of Coach Prosser had a profound effect on me and it took stepping away to come to grips with it," Kelsey said.
Kelsey said he'd base Winthrop's program on the things he learned from Prosser, his "ABCs."
"That was academics, basketball and character," Kelsey continued. "These three letters were the fabric of what he taught and what he believed in."
Kelsey will have his hands full rebuilding a Winthrop team that went to nine NCAA tournaments from 1999-2010, but was just 25-37 the past two years. The Eagles finished fifth in the Big South Conference in 2011 and sixth this past winter. He will have a six-year contract that pays $175,000 a year.
Winthrop athletic director Tom Hickman said Kelsey was dynamic and energetic and stood out to he and university president Anthony DiGiorgio during the interview process. "I know that he will excite our fan base," Hickman said.
Kelsey is expected to be officially introduced on campus next week. He said Winthrop has a powerful name because of its NCAA tournament appearances under Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall and Peele.
"I am not only looking forward to continuing the winning tradition," Kelsey says, "but hopefully helping the program to levels never seen before."
Mack, Xavier's head coach, said Kelsey is a hard work who is loved by the players he coaches.
Kelsey promised an up-tempo approach to offense, again with a nod to his old coach. Prosser "was famous for saying, 'the older I get, the faster I want to play,'" Kelsey said. "I think that applies to me a little bit."
The Eagles will play tough-nosed defense, another Prosser trademark, Kelsey pledged.
Hickman had said at the time of Peele's dismissal that the program needed the spark that comes from a change in leadership. Kelsey hopes he can provide that burst, something he discovered he missed during his time away from the game.
"I'm a teacher, a motivator and a coach and I feel like I do those things at a very high level," Kelsey said. "Coach Prosser's legacy will live on in people like me who will instill in young men the same core values that he conveyed every day."
Kelsey began his college career at Wyoming before transferring back to his hometown of Cincinnati to play for Prosser at Xavier from 1996-98, helping the team to two NCAA tournament appearances. He joined Prosser at Wake Forest in 2001 as the program's director of basketball operations.
Kelsey was promoted to an assistant coach before the 2004-05 season and served in that role until departing for Xavier after the 2009 season.