It was shortly after University of Massachusetts athletic director Ryan Bamford had made the decision to fire Derek Kellogg.
Bamford was talking to some friends about what he wanted in UMass’s next basketball coach. He talked about recruiting and coaching and game management. And then he came to the crux of the matter. “”What I want,” he said with a smile, “is to find the next Jay Wright.”
Sixteen years ago, Wright was the boy wonder of college basketball coaches. At 40, he was ready to move from the mid-major level at Hofstra to the next level. Rutgers wanted him, but so did Villanova. Then, as it is now, Villanova was the better job.
Wright who graduated from Bucknell, went to Philadelphia and became the star people predicted. The Wildcats won the national championship a year ago. They were the No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament before an upset by Wisconsin ended their season.
In looking over a group of candidates during the past week and a half, Bamford saw some resumes he thought could fit the “next Jay Wright. There was Joe Dooley at Florida Gulf Coast,there was Micah Shrewsberry, a young assistant to Brad Stevens with the Celtics, whose future seemed to grow brighter with experience and there was Pat Kelsey at Winthrop. Other candidates such as Rice’s Mike Rhoades, a former VCU assistant, also were talked about.
Kelsey’s credentials included stops in the Atlantic 10 and ACC at Xavier and Wake Forest, a pedigree which included the late former Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser and a five year success at Winthrop, which included an impressive 102-59 run and a pair of NCAA appearances.
Dooley’s star was the brightest because FGCU still had some residual effects from their run in the NCAA tournament a few years ago which sent coach Andy Enfield from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the Pac-12 at USC.
But Kelsey’s resume was just as solid and built with a stronger foundation of players who worked their way through the system, rather than join the the program via the transfer route.
Bamford hit the road with his staff and did his business, continuing the inteview process, making choices based on a feeling as much as performance. Kelsey had the most boxes checked off and emerged with Dooley on the top of the Bamford’s list, although, according to some sources, Rhoades also emerged.
By Monday, Bamford was ready to make his move,with Rhoades a key player. But VCU then opened when Will Wade went to LSU. Once Rhoades made the decision to go back to VCU, Bamford focused on Kelsey.
On Tuesday afternoon, the deal was finally done and the twitter world exploded with the news that Pat Kelsey would be coming to UMass.
Whether there is recreation of Jay Wright has yet to be determined.