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A Case for Charleston: Pat Kelsey turning heads in his second season on Meeting Street

The former Winthrop frontman is making the case he's the right person to lead the Cougars bench. PIC: College of Charleston Magazine

Just over a year and a half ago, College of Charleston had to replace head coach Earl Grant, who took the same position at Boston College. Their search didn't last long - in fact, they found their top candidate mere hours away in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Pat Kelsey was just off the heels of two straight NCAA tournament appearances as the head play-caller of Winthrop. He had led the Eagles to a whopping 47-12 record - 32-4 against Big South opponents. So, for Charleston Athletic Director Matt Roberts, the search for the next head coach was an easy one.

Dino Gaudio, a Skip Prosser coaching tree alum, went so far as to say Kelsey is the best coach in any level.

While Kelsey's first season at Charleston last year wasn't stellar, it was a step in the right direction. The Cougars were bounced from the CAA Tournament by UNC Wilmington after beating Hofstra in the first round. Their non-con wins weren't great; highlighted by a two-point win over Chattanooga (KenPom #67) and a 4-point win over Tulane (KenPom #98).

But the silver linings were aplenty. Kelsey attracted D3 transfer Dimitrius Underwood, who proved himself to be a reliable addition to the Charleston backcourt. He brought in Raekwon Horton, who's now becoming a mainstay in the lineup. And, arguably most importantly, Kelsey restored the life into the Charleston fanbase at TD Arena.

They're off to a great start in the 2022-23 season, with wins aplenty over quality opponents. The ACC's Virginia Tech, and the A-10's Richmond & Davidson all went down the hatch. So did 63rd-ranked Kent State. AP writers have taken notice, with Charleston receiving the most votes in the most recent AP Top 25.

Take it from Nick Lorensen of Mid Major Madness, who called Charleston a proverbial Island of Misfit Toys: "Everyone loves to cheer for an underdog and the Cougars’ roster is full of them." Their top six offensive contributors are from Australia, Senegal, non-D1 transfers, or D1 depth players. There are high performers, but there are no stars.

Charleston finished 2nd in the nation in adjusted tempo last year. They push the pace, they hustle, and they don't skip a beat on defense, having finished in the middle of the pack in adjusted defensive efficiency. They're on track to have similar statistics this season.

Ryan Larson, who Kelsey purged from Wofford, seems to do all the little things right. He's in the top 200 in effective FG%, true shooting %, and free throw %. Reyne Smith, who won CAA Rookie of the Week five times last year, is shooting a whopping 95% from the stripe and set a school record sinking 8 three-pointers vs. Richmond this November. Dalton Bolton didn't play more than 5% of Charleston's minutes last year after transferring from D2 West Liberty; he's now starting at small forward and labeled as a "major contributor" on KenPom.

Pat Kelsey is bringing out the best in the Charleston Cougars, and you'd have to think the best is yet to come on Meeting Street.


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