New Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey made news within college basketball last year when he decided to give up coaching in order to focus more on his family.
The death of his mentor Skip Prosser took an immense toll on Kelsey, who was seen during his time as an assistant at Wake Forest and Xavier as one of the rising stars in coaching.
Coming to grips with the loss of Prosser eventually meant that Kelsey, a Cincinnati native who grew up in a community that was “all blue collar and tough and handle-your-own-problems”, had to do something foreign.
He sought out help.
Attempting to work through his grief over the loss of his mentor Kelsey immersed himself in his job, but in the end that did more harm than good.
“[Kelsey’s wife Lisa] wanted her husband back,” Pat Kelsey said. “She wanted the guy she met, the guy who did everything to his fullest, whether it was work or family or whatever. But that guy wasn’t there any more.
“When I was on the road, I felt guilty for not being home. When I was at home, I felt guilty for not doing a better job at work. I wasn’t doing either one very well. And it just kept spiraling.”
Eventually, Kelsey decided to step down from his position at Xavier, taking the advice of his father and seeking professional help.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health 16.7% of Americans deal with depression at some point in their lives, and there are plenty of instances in which a person won’t look for help especially in athletics.
Dwight Hollier, a licensed professional counselor at Southeast Psych in Charlotte who is a former NFL linebacker, said Kelsey’s admission was rare because of the culture of sports he grew up in.
“It’s unfortunate but it’s true. There’s still a stigma associated with depression and mental illness,” said Hollier, a former star at North Carolina who played nine years for the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. “There’s a macho culture. The impression we’re supposed to give off is that we’re unbreakable, and that’s especially true with coaches, because they’re the ones leading, they’re the ones showing the way.
“The statistics that are out there don’t always show an accurate picture, because more people are suffering than come forward. That macho persona in sports keeps a lot of people from opening up and getting help.”
Taking that step not only allowed Kelsey to get the help he needed but also recharge his basketball batteries, eventually leading to him taking the job at Winthrop.
Before coaching a single game at the Rock Hill, South Carolina school, Pat Kelsey taught his new players a first lesson. And an important one too.