Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey calls for change in wake of Sandy Hook tragedy

Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey stepped away from college basketball nearly 19 months ago when he was an assistant at Xavier to focus on being a better father and husband and improve his health.

He had struggled with the pressures and strains the life of a college coach places on family and health since watching coach Skip Prosser die of a heart attack in the coaches' offices at Wake Forest four years earlier.

With that history in mind, it's not a surprise that Kelsey chose to speak his mind about the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last week. He made his remarks at the end of the his postgame press conference following his team's loss Tuesday night at Ohio State.

One night earlier, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim used the spotlight of his 900th victory to speak out in favor of tighter gun control laws.

There is no doubt the killing of 20 elementary school students and six of their teachers and administrators struck Kelsey hard. He has 4 and 5-year-old daughters at home and he referred to them in his powerful message.

The text of his message is below as transcribed by

“The last thing I wanna say is I’m really, really lucky, ’cause I’m gonna get on an eight-hour bus ride, and I’m gonna arrive in Rock Hill, S.C., and I’m gonna walk into my house, and I’m gonna walk upstairs, and I’m gonna walk into two pink rooms, OK, with a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old laying in that pink room, with a bunch of teddy bears laying in that room.

“And I’m gonna give them the biggest hug and the biggest kiss I’ve ever given them. And there’s 20 families in Newtown, Conn., that are walking into a pink room with a bunch of teddy bears with nobody laying in those beds. And it’s tragic.

“And I don’t know what needs to be done. I’m not smart enough to know what needs to be done, OK? I know this country’s got issues. Is it a gun issue? Is it a mental illness issue? Or is it a society that has lost the fact, the understanding, that decent human values are important?

“And our leaders – I didn’t vote for President Obama. But you know what? He’s my president now. He’s my leader. I need him to step up. Mr. Boehner, the Speaker of the House, he’s a Xavier guy, he’s a Cincinnati guy, OK, he needs to step up.

“Parents, teachers, rabbis, priests, coaches, everybody needs to step up. This has to be a time for change. And I know this microphone’s powerful right now, because we’re playing the fourth-best team in the country. I’m not going to have a microphone like this the rest of the year, maybe the rest of my life.

“And I’m going to be an agent of change with the 13 young men I get to coach every day and the two little girls that I get to raise. But hopefully things start changing, because it’s really, really disappointing.

“I’m proud to grow up American. I’m proud to say I’m part of the greatest country ever. And that’s got to stay that way. And it’ll stay that way if we change. But we gotta change.”

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