Louisville to hire Pat Kelsey: Charleston coach led Cougars to last two NCAA Tournaments

After a hunt that lasted more than two weeks, Louisville has its next head coach. Charleston’s Pat Kelsey has accepted Louisville’s offer to become its next basketball coach, sources tell CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. The two sides have verbally agreed on a deal to have Kelsey succeed Kenny Payne. Louisville has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday, when it is expected Kelsey will be introduced as the next Cardinals coach. 

The deal is for five years, per a source, and the terms of the contract need to be approved by the UofL Athletic Association’s Board of Directors Thursday afternoon.

Louisville was in discussions Tuesday and well into Wednesday with Kelsey and Indiana State coach Josh Schertz, according to Norlander. Louisville athletic director Josh Heird put a lot of time and effort into both candidates. A potential deal with Schertz, whose Sycamores team is still playing in the NIT, fell through early Wednesday afternoon. That opened the door for Kelsey to take the job. 

The Kelsey hire comes a day removed from reports that New Mexico’s Richard Pitino was a top Louisville target. Pitino’s candidacy faded as quickly as it bubbled up, sources said, in no small part because of concern about the potential pitfalls that could come with having another Pitino coach the Cardinals. Rick Pitino, of course, was there from 2001-2017 and left amid scandal, only to have his name cleared in the FBI probe years later. 

Kelsey turns up as the pick after the school attempted to court Baylor coach Scott Drew and former FAU coach Dusty May to the Derby City. Drew opted to remain at Baylor; May picked Michigan over U of L. Kelsey spent the last three seasons at Charleston in the CAA, compiling a 74-27 record and guiding the Cougars to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances the past two seasons. Kelsey took Winthrop to the NCAAs twice and Charleston twice, going 0-4 in the Big Dance as a 12- or 13-seed each time.

The 48-year-old known for his relentless positive energy started his college coaching career as an assistant at Wake Forest in 2004 and spent five seasons with the program before becoming the associate head coach at Xavier — his alma mater. He coached under Chris Mack, who ran Louisville’s program from 2018 until January of 2022. Kelsey coached nine seasons at Winthrop and compiled a 186-95 record at the school before taking the job at Charleston.

Charleston finished the 2023-24 season with a 27-8 record and fell to Alabama 109-96 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last week. Kelsey’s career winning percentage is .681, which ranks top-20 among active D-I men’s coaches with at least 10 years of coaching experience.

Louisville fired Payne earlier this month after two massively disappointing seasons with the program. The Cardinals finished 8-24 this season — doubling their number of victories after going 4-28 in Payne’s first season. Payne finished with a 12-52 record at the school after he was hired in 2022 to replace former coach Chris Mack. Kelsey takes the Louisville job, considered to be among the 10-or-so most prestigious in the sport, at a time when the program has never been so bad. Louisville has fallen fast in college basketball’s transfer portal/NIL landscape, but sources said the school has a war chest of resources to support Kelsey’s roster building in the months to come. 

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