AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Just minutes before UMass Amherst was going to introduce Pat Kelsey as their new men’s basketball head coach Thursday afternoon, they abruptly cancelled the news conference.
During another news conference Thursday night, UMass Athletic Director Ryan Bamford said, “We had lunch with coach. We had meetings this morning and through lunch time. We left him for two hours to prepare for the press conference, and at 3:25, he called.”
Coach Kelsey dropped a bombshell in that phone call, and asked Bamford to be released from the agreement he signed to be UMass’ next head coach for unspecified “very personal” reasons. Bamford was stunned, and said the students were disappointed.
UMass Student Zack Denmark told 22News, “I think it’s kind of ruthless to all the players and everyone who thought he was going to stay. It’s kind of a low blow. Everyone was expecting him to stay.”
Below is the entire statement from Pat Kelsey:
”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.
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 issued a short statement apologizing to UMass leadership and the athletic program; however, saying he’s sorry, might not be enough to break a contract he signed with the university.
Bamford said, “There’s buyout language in there as is standard for coaching contracts, and coaching M.O.U.’s. And at this time, the first two years of that M.O.U. was a $1-million buyout.”
So UMass will resume its search for its next men’s basketball head coach. Bamford considers this a bump in the road; “I am steadfast that we’re going to find the next leader and it’s going to be somebody great.”
Bamford added that the university leadership and Kelsey’s representatives would be meeting in the coming days to work out the legal details of undoing the contract they signed.
Kelsey was set to replace Derek Kellogg, who was fired earlier in March. Kelsey had coached at Winthrop University and led them to the NCAA Tournament.