Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey, seizing what he believed was a special opportunity, gave an impassioned address Tuesday in response to the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School killings.
After commenting on the Eagles' 65-55 loss to Ohio State, Kelsey pleaded for social change in the wake of Friday's tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
"The last thing I wanna say is I'm really, really lucky," Kelsey said. "I'm gonna get on an eight-hour bus ride and I'm gonna arrive in Rock Hill, S.C., and I'm gonna walk into my house and walk upstairs. I'm gonna walk into two pink rooms, OK, with a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old laying in that pink room, with a bunch of teddy bears laying in that room.
"And I'm gonna give them the biggest hug and the biggest kiss I've ever given them. And there's 20 families in Newtown, Conn., that are walking into a pink room with a bunch of teddy bears with nobody laying in those beds. And it's tragic."
Kelsey acknowledged that his team's opponent put him on a national stage and that he was going to use that stage to raise awareness four days after 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook.
"This has to be a time for change," he said. "And I know this microphone's powerful right now, because we're playing the (seventh)-best team in the country. I'm not going to have a microphone like this the rest of the year, maybe the rest of my life.
"I'm going to be an agent of change with the 13 young men I get to coach every day and the two little girls that I get to raise. But hopefully things start changing, because it's really, really disappointing."
Kelsey, a Cincinnati native and Xavier alumnus, called on President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner to mend their differences and do whatever was necessary to prevent another such massacre.
"I don't know what needs to be done," Kelsey said. "I'm not smart enough to know what needs to be done. I know this country's got issues. Is it a gun issue? Is it a mental illness issue? Or is it a society that has lost the fact -- the understanding -- that decent human values are important?
"I didn't vote for President Obama. But he's my president now, he's my leader. I need him to step up. Mr. Boehner, the Speaker of the House, he's a Xavier guy, he's a Cincinnati guy. He needs to step up. Parents, teachers, rabbis, priests, coaches, everybody needs to step up."
His voice rising, and with his eyes welling, he finished by saying, "I'm proud to grow up American. I'm proud to say I'm part of the greatest country ever. And that's got to stay that way. And it'll stay that way if we change.
"But we've got to change."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.