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How the Pat Kelsey-Norse deal fell through

Early Tuesday afternoon, multiple sources with knowledge of the Northern Kentucky University hiring process for the men’s basketball head coach position told The Enquirer that Pat Kelsey would be the hire.

It wasn’t a closed deal, those sources said, but the basics of an agreement were coming together.

The negotiation, however, broke down and quickly ended.

Just a short time later, it became clear Kelsey would remain at Winthrop as the Norse instead announced former South Carolina and Western Kentucky head coach Darrin Horn as the program’s next leader.

So what happened?

Kelsey to NKU made perfect sense, to vested insiders and those tracking from outside the program that’s made two NCAA Tournament appearances since earning full-time Division I status three years ago.

He grew up in nearby Cincinnati, his family has deep ties to the school (his sister Katie Kelsey-Cluxton, brother-in-law Paul Cluxton and brother Mike “Walt” Kelsey are in the NKU Athletics Hall of Fame) and it appeared he would be in line for a significant raise.

Former NKU coach John Brannen, who left for the University of Cincinnati earlier this month, was set to make $400,000 annually if he had continued at NKU. Kelsey’s base pay at Winthrop, where he has a 139-83 record in seven seasons, is $227,150 annually with $75,000 in potential bonus money.

Kelsey was considered the top candidate soon after news broke that Brannen was leaving.

And he maintained the lead to Tuesday afternoon, after interviews with multiple candidates were conducted, on the phone, on campus in Highland Heights, Kentucky, and in Atlanta, where the assisting firm Parker Executive Search is based.

An NKU spokesperson for the athletics department declined to comment on specifics of the hiring process.

And a spokesperson for the Winthrop basketball program did not return an email asking if Kelsey would be available for comment. Text messages to members of the Kelsey family were not returned.

But according to multiple sources with information about Tuesday’s proceedings, the deal between Kelsey and NKU fell apart because of details other than salary.

Specifically, according to the sources, the two sides could not agree on terms of a buyout in the event Kelsey left for another coaching job So, later in the afternoon Tuesday after what appeared to be a done deal, NKU ended talks and moved on to Horn, who for the past four seasons was an assistant at Texas.

What looked to be all but done ended with a different outcome.

“I am pleased to welcome Darrin, along with his wife Carla and children Caroline and Walker, to Northern Kentucky University,” said NKU Director of Athletics Ken Bothof in a statement Tuesday night. “Throughout the hiring process, it became clear that Darrin was the right fit to lead the Norse men’s basketball program.”

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