His son just finished his sophomore year at Lipscomb. His daughter is set to be a freshman at Vanderbilt in the fall.
Tom Kelsey soon could be just across campus or right down the street from both.
The former Lipscomb basketball player and assistant coach interviewed last week for the job s men's basketball coach at his alma mater. Kelsey just finished his first year as the director of basketball operations at LSU. He is a former Division I assistant and has been a head coach at two NAIA programs.
“This one, of course, is different,” Kelsey said on Thursday. “There are a lot of schools that have a lot of good traits but this one just happens to be one that a lot of uniqueness and a lot of fondness to it. I think the thing about [Lipscomb] is the uniqueness is the people. There are still people there from when I was in college. That’s what makes it fun and makes it special.”
The Bisons are more than three weeks into a search for the successor to Scott Sanderson, who resigned on April 9 after 14 seasons.
Pete Froedden, another former Lipscomb guard, is currently serving as the interim coach and has applied for the permanent position. Longtime Belmont assistant Brian Ayers is also a candidate. Ayers, also a former Bisons standout, did not return a message.
Lipscomb athletics director Philip Hutcheson also could not be reached for comment.
Kelsey graduated from Lipscomb in 1986 and played on the NAIA national championship team that year.
“Not many people get to win their last game in college,” Kelsey said. “It was just a special time. The people there were just fantastic. It was really a perfect storm type situation — great program, great coach, we had really good players. I was kind of in the right place at the right time.”
A Chattanooga native, he coached at NAIA schools Faulkner (Ala.) and Belhaven (Miss.). Most recently, he took Belhaven to the national tournament twice and compiled a record of 137-115 in seven seasons.
After his first head coaching stint, he was on Don Meyer’s staff at Lipscomb from 1994-95 then coached under current North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried. He spent three seasons apiece with Gottfried at Murray State and Alabama.
“I’ve had good timing and been fortunate to have really good staffs and good players,” Kelsey said. “We’ve rebuilt some things but I think we have always gone in with a plan and things have worked out well. Nothing magical or nothing special but I’ve followed a plan of attack and been successful. I’ve had a chance to be with some really good coaches and that’s helped a lot.”
Last May, he was hired by LSU first-year coach Johnny Jones, who coached alongside Kelsey at Alabama.
Back in the Southeastern Conference, Kelsey said he enjoys the challenges of trying to upset juggernauts like Kentucky, Florida and Missouri. But he admits the chance to take over his alma mater adds another element.
“I’m happy either way. I’ve got a great job, great situation,” he said. “There are other ones that come along but … there is naturalness to it that other places don’t have. There are a lot of good jobs out there. But that, of course, has a little more uniqueness to it than other places.”