Sources: Louisville targets Charleston's Kelsey

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Louisville is targeting Charleston’s Pat Kelsey as its next head coach, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

Kelsey is coming off his second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, leading Charleston to back-to-back CAA regular-season and tournament championships. He brings a career 261-122 record over 12 seasons as a head coach at Charleston and Winthrop.

The Cougars went 31-4 during the 2022-23 season, winning 21 of their first 22 games. They took eventual national runner-up San Diego State to the wire in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling.

Kelsey’s hire brings to an end a whirlwind search for athletic director Josh Heird, who fired Kenny Payne just over two weeks ago. Heird first pursued Baylor coach Scott Drew, who opted to return to Waco, and then targeted Florida Atlantic’s Dusty May, who ultimately chose Michigan.

This all played out amid a backdrop of uncertainty in the ACC, as last week Clemson became the second school in recent months to file suit against the conference in an attempt to leave.

In Kelsey, Louisville is getting a coach who will bring a high-energy style that should reenergize Louisville’s loyal fan base, which has endured back-to-back last-place ACC finishes.

This season, Charleston won its final nine games of the regular season and then won the conference tournament to earn the CAA’s automatic bid. The Cougars lost to Alabama 109-96 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Over Kelsey’s past two seasons, Charleston is 58-12 overall and 31-5 in the CAA.

Before taking over at Charleston in 2021, Kelsey was the coach at Winthrop for nine seasons, leading the Eagles to four Big South Conference regular-season titles and two NCAA tournament appearances. Winthrop also won the 2020 conference tournament, but the NCAA tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He went 185-95 during his time with the Eagles.

Kelsey was previously an assistant coach at Wake Forest under Skip Prosser and Dino Gaudio and at Xavier under Chris Mack — who spent three and a half seasons as the head coach of Louisville from 2018-22. This gives him both experience in the ACC and in the general geographic footprint.

Payne was fired after two seasons with the Cardinals. He went 12-52 in his Louisville tenure, winning just one game away from home.

Eight players from this season’s team have already entered the transfer portal, including leading scorer Skyy Clark (13.2 PPG) and fellow key contributors Mike James (12.6 PPG), JJ Traynor (10.1 PPG in eight games), Curtis Williams (5.3 PPG) and Kaleb Glenn (3.9 PPG). The Cardinals’ lone recruit in the 2024 class, T.J. Robinson, decommitted earlier this month.

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