Winthrop coach pleads for change in wake of school shooting
Winthrop University men’s basketball coach Pat Kelsey was in the national spotlight Tuesday night and used it to deliver an impassioned speech about last Friday’s fatal shootings of 26 people in a Connecticut elementary school.
“Parents, teachers, rabbis, priests, coaches . . . everybody needs to step up,” said Kelsey, firstyear coach of the Eagles. “This has to be a time for change.”
Kelsey’s team played Tuesday night at fourth- ranked Ohio State, and that meant a large number of reporters was on hand for interviews following Winthrop’s 6555 loss in Columbus.
“I know this microphone’s powerful right now, because we’re playing the fourth-best team in the country,” Kelsey said, according to transcripts of his remarks from reporters on hand. “I’m not going to have a microphone like this the rest of the year - maybe the rest of my life.”
So Kelsey used his moments of national attention to address the killing of 20 young chil- dren in Sandy Hook, Conn. By Wednesday morning, those remarks were gaining national attention, noted by nearly all the major national TV networks and on social media. Kelsey’s remarks came on the same night when Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim, who has 900 career victories, made a strong speech in favor of strengthening gun control.
After briefly discussing the game, in which the Eagles gave the heavily favored Buckeyes a tough game, Kelsey changed the topic.
“The last thing I want to say is I’m really, really lucky, because 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, 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,” Kelsey began.
“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.” Kelsey paused.
“I’m not smart enough to know what needs to be done,” he said. “I know this country has 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?” he asked.
Kelsey then told reporters that he didn’t vote for President Obama in the recent election but Obama “is my leader.”
The Winthrop coach said it is time for Obama and House Speaker John Boehner — who, Kelsey mentioned, is a fellow Cincinnati native — “to step up.”
And he said he will work for change himself.
“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,” he said. “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. But we gotta change.”