Louisville agrees to 5-year deal to hire Charleston’s Pat Kelsey as men’s basketball coach: Source

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Louisville and Charleston’s Pat Kelsey have agreed to a deal to make him the next men’s basketball coach, a program source confirmed to The Athletic.

Kelsey and Louisville have agreed in principle on a five-year contract.

Kelsey, 48, coached Charleston from 2021 to 2024, taking the Cougars to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments over the last two seasons. Before Charleston, Kelsey coached at Winthrop from 2012 to 2021. He led the Eagles to four Big South regular-season championships and three Big South tournament wins. Winthrop made it twice to the NCAA Tournament during Kelsey’s tenure (2017 and 2021), losing both instances in the round of 64.

Kelsey was named Big South Coach of the Year in 2021 and CAA Coach of the Year this season. Charleston finished 27-8 this year, losing to No. 4 seed Alabama in the first round of the tournament. Over three seasons at Charleston, Kelsey amassed a 75-27 record.

Kelsey replaces Kenny Payne, who the Cardinals fired after a 12-52 record in two seasons.

What Kelsey brings to Louisville

It’s been a long and winding search to replace Payne, whom everyone knew by December wouldn’t return for a third season. You can forgive Louisville fans if they’re slightly underwhelmed by this hire, given that Kelsey is a former assistant to a guy they recently fired (Chris Mack) and has never won an NCAA Tournament game. But that would be the wrong way to look at this, and not long after the Cardinals tip off next season, the excitement level should be high.

That’s because, more than anything, Kelsey exudes intensity. From his sideline demeanor to the way his teams play. At both Winthrop and Charleston, his teams played at some of the fastest tempos in the country. He also substituted freely, playing as many as 10 or 11 guys who would all give maximum effort in short bursts. And it was a winning formula. Kelsey went 57-12 his last two years at Winthrop, capturing the league regular-season and tournament titles both times.

He then went 58-12 the past two years at Charleston, winning the league regular-season and tournament titles both times. No, he couldn’t get past the first round in March Madness, but this was Winthrop and Charleston we’re talking about. Not many coaches are going deep into the tournament from mid-majors.

Give Kelsey Louisville’s vast resources, however, and this could really be something. Payne not only didn’t win those games, he rarely changed expression or showed much passion on the sidelines or in news conferences. Which doesn’t necessarily mean anything when it comes to winning (see: Tony Bennett), but is still something fans want to see from their head coach, especially when adversity strikes. That won’t be an issue with Kelsey.

He’s from Cincinnati, which is similar in a lot of aspects to Louisville, so the cultural fit should work. He has thrived on finding below-the-radar players, including Division II transfers, but he also attracted DJ Burns Jr, a former elite recruit now starring for NC State in the Sweet 16, to Winthrop after Burns left Tennessee.

Whether his playing style will translate to a high major where players demand big minutes or look to transfer remains to be seen. But Kelsey is the kind of energy infusion a beaten-down program desperately needs right now, even if he’s not the huge name some fans were pining for. — Brian Bennett, senior college basketball editor

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(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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