Louisville HC Pat Kelsey Impressed by First Team's Maturity (2024)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As Pat Kelsey would put it, the last two-plus month have been "hectic." And honestly, that might be a little bit of an understatement.

On Mar. 28, Kelsey was officially hired as the head coach of the Louisville men's basketball program. Since coming over from Charleston, where he had spent the last three years as the head coach, Kelsey has been going nearly non-stop. Between having to put together a staff and assemble a roster from quite literally the ground up, there have been very few slow moments since taking over the Cardinals - if at all.

On Thursday, Kelsey finally had a little bit of time to breathe, talking to various local media about his first two months on the job.

"(It's been) a whirlwind last 70 days," Kelsey told WDRB's Tyler Greever. "We've been a bit crazy. But here this week, with all the players arriving for the first time, it's settled down a little bit. You're able to take a deep breath and focus on what you'd like to think you do best and what you love the most. And that's coach guys up, put your team together. So, it's been awesome. We feel really, really good, after the dust is all settled, about the roster that we've been able to assemble."

In this day and age of the transfer portal and NIL, roster construction is already volatile enough. Throw in a coaching change, and it get cranked to 11. In fact, not long after previous head coach Kenny Payne was fired, all 12 of Louisville's scholarship players from the 2023-24 season entered the portal.

While having to replace an entire roster is a dubious undertaking, on one hand, it allowed Kelsey a clean slate to construct a roster to his complete liking. With some assistance from 502Circle, Louisville's NIL collective, not only was he able to put together a roster that fits his style, he brought in an extremely talented crop of players. Signing 12 D1 transfers and one high school prospect, the Cardinals' portal class ranks as the No. 1 transfer haul in all of college basketball, according to On3.

When you look at the roster as a whole, with the wide range of experience and skill sets that each individual player brings, Kelsey likes the overall balance that the team brings in terms of being able to both compete now and set up for the future.

"I think as you move forward, it's good to have balance on your roster," Kelsey told Greever. "You have a portion of guys that are younger, that you're going to be able to build with for a couple of years, and we have that. We have two guys that are redshirting that we're crazy high on. Khani Rooths is obviously a very, very talented freshman. Koren Johnson is a young man that transferred after two years, so he has two more years here. And then we added several fourth-year transfers, older guys. So, we like to think we have a good core that we're going to build with here over the next couple of years and we added some older, veteran, proven guys, I think we have a really good balance right now."

A couple weeks ago, Louisville officially signed all 13 newcomers to the 2024-25 roster. Over the last several days, these players have slowly been making their way to campus and integrating themselves with the rest of the team at the Kueber Center where Louisville practices. One thing that has very much stood out to Kelsey during this time is just how mature the team as a whole is, specifically their leadership capabilities.

"I think a hallmark of this team, and part of its true identity, is the maturity," Kelsey said. "We have a bunch of old heads, guys that have logged a ton of minutes at a high level of college basketball. And not only have logged a bunch of minutes, but they come from winning programs. I think in today's day and age of college basketball, it's important to try to get old and stay old, as they like to say. But these guys are about what we're about.

"It's a painstaking process. We're very, very thorough in our evaluation, not only from an X's and O's, schematic and analytic standpoint as to who fits in our system, but also who fits on the things that you can't measure. You can measure height, you can measure quickness, you can measure shooting ability and things like that. But the guys that are about the things that we want our program to be about, that's what these guys are all about, what we want Louisville Cardinals to be about."

Additionally, the majority of the newcomers not only have been leaders in some capacity, they have some form of winning experience. Only two of the 13 players either had no postseason accolades or did not reach NCAA Tournament last season. These are players that know how to win, and while it has been under a week since the majority of the team has gotten together, it's clear to Kelsey that they know how to conduct themselves in order to win.

"Even though on day one, walking in, you don't know exactly the protocol," Kelsey said. "You don't know exactly the terminology. But carrying yourself, acting and working like a pro is a universal language. Absolutely. These guys have just come in, gotten after it and been sponges, right? They've been vulnerable. They've been open. It's been great, these first few days."

(Photo of Pat Kelsey via University of Louisville Athletics)

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Louisville HC Pat Kelsey Impressed by First Team's Maturity (2024)
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