Winthrop coach pleads for change in wake of school shoot­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - BASKETBALL - By Steve Lyt­tle The Char­lotte Observer

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.”

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