Winthrop coach explains Newtown speech
by Michael Stainbrook, USA TODAY Sports
During halftime of a summer league basketball game for Elder High School 20 years ago, a 17-year-old Pat Kelsey stood in a Xavier University locker room and surveyed the new class of varsity Panthers. The first 16 minutes of basketball was not what he had in mind.
“I thought Elder guys were supposed to play a lot harder than that!” Kelsey told his teammates without reservation.
The Panthers responded in the second half. Six months later, they were state champions.
Kelsey’s career path took him from a visitor at Xavier to a Musketeer himself, both as a player and coach. He quietly began his head coaching career at Winthrop this fall, but the nation took notice Tuesday after an impromptu pep talk about last week’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., following a 10-point loss to Ohio State.
“When I walked into the press conference, I had never been in a chair with a microphone in front of me with that many cameras,” Kelsey said. “Something came over me. I don’t know if it was divine intervention or what, but it struck me that I had a platform that very few people in the world have.”
He expressed thankfulness for the ability to go home and kiss his daughters, ages 4 and 5, who are barely younger than the youngest Newtown victims. And just as he prodded his Panther teammates in 1992, he challenged national leaders to bring about any changes necessary to prevent future tragedies.
“Parents, teachers, rabbis, priests, coaches, everybody needs to step up. This has to be a time for change,” Kelsey said. “And I know this microphone’s powerful right now, because we’re playing the fourth-best team in the country.”
Such a strong statement from the first-year coach of a mid-major university took some people by surprise, but longtime Elder coach Joe Schoenfeld said that type of talk is just part of what makes Kelsey a respected coach and humanitarian.