Keeping cool on the bench

Whenever the five on the court make a jaw-dropping play or need a defensive stand, their teammates on the men's basketball bench spring to their feet, clap and scream.

The sight of Matt Mortensen or Tommy Brice standing and cheering might motivate teammates, but it also obscures the Rev. William Kelly's view of the court.

But regardless of what happens on the court, Kelly remains seated at the end of the bench with a placid look on his face and a firm grip on a clipboard.

Don't let the peaceful appearance fool you, though. In his 22nd season as the team's permanent chaplain, Kelly is fighting to be still.

"No," Kelly said when asked if he keeps statistics on the clipboard. "That's just so that I don't get a technical foul and leave the bench by interfering with the referees. And it's a way of doing it to calm your nerves."

When subsequently questioned if he gets nervous at the games, Kelly almost cannot believe the question.

"Certainly," he said. "Particularly when those 10-point leads start disappearing."

His stake in the program has not gone unnoticed.

"Not only does he care about the basketball team and the athletic department but he cares about the entire school," said men's basketball head coach Tom Crean. "Every time I've been with him I have felt honored to be around him and he takes his role with the team very serious."

Kelly's possession and knowledge of the two-page job description with seven major points for the men's athletics chaplain justifies that description.

"Now you notice there that it's to all athletics, men's athletics," Kelly said.

He has developed relationships with Tim Grogan and Steve Rodecap, the golf and tennis coaches, respectively, along with players on those teams.

But because basketball is the school's signature sport he spends most of his time with Tom Crean and his players.

Kelly attends practice on a regular basis, says a prayer with the team before and after each game, travels with the team, eats with them on the road and is there for players when needed.

"It's kind of interesting to deal with the kids," Kelly said. "I think they're wonderful people. But I think the fact is that they tolerate me."

Members of the basketball team have a different perspective.

"He's the type of person that doesn't demand attention," said senior Steve Novak. "He really makes you feel like he's there to make your day a little bit better, cheer you up. He's always got a little something to say, or a joke for you. He's always kind of got good news for you."

As a result of that players are comfortable around Kelly and have the utmost respect for him.

"Win or lose he's always trying to get you back on your feet," Novak said. "He's really a definite member of the team that's been through all of it with us."