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Pat Kelsey backs out last minute, will not be UMass basketball head coach

03.23.17 at 6:48 pm ET
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Pat Kelsey is the new basketball coach at UMass. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Pat Kelsey will not take the UMass coaching job after all. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

The Massachusetts men’s basketball team was set to usher in its next head basketball coach Thursday afternoon at the John Francis Kennedy Champions Center after the team announced Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey would be replacing former coach Derek Kellogg Tuesday.

As media and fans gathered in the Champions Center, it was then relayed by a UMass spokesperson that the press conference had been cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances.” Moments later ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported Kelsey had a change of heart and in a most bizarre twist, would not be the team’s next coach.

”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,” Kelsey said in a statement the team released. “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. I apologize to Chancellor 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.”

Kelsey had been on campus in Amherst the previous two days taking photos and meeting with the current Minutemen basketball team and other athletic coaches at the university, including Thursday in anticipation for the afternoon presser. He then called Bamford at 3:25, just a half hour prior to his scheduled press conference, to inform him of his request to be released from the university.

“After speaking with Pat about his decision, I honored his request and we are now working through how this impacts our executed Memorandum of Understanding,” Bamford said. “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. 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.”

The search for UMass’ next coach now resumes, with rumored candidates Micah Shrewsberry and Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley serious contenders for the position.

As for Kelsey, Bamford said it was his indication in their meeting that he would be heading back Winthrop, however he could not confirm.

“This was on me,” Bamford told the media early Thursday evening. “As the leader of this organization, this is on me. I take this personally. Finding our next head coach is personal to me because I owe it to the department and our student-athletes to find somebody great.”

“This is a great job and this is a great university,” he added. “We are a top public research university. This is a wonderful athletic department and this is an unbelievable community. We’re going to go find somebody who wants to come here and return us to prominence. There’s no doubt in my mind. This is a road bump for us.”

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