WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Saturday, Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Sean Sullivan announced that Aaron Kelly, a 2006 graduate with 13 seasons of experience as an assistant coach, including 11 at Division I, has been named the 21st head men's basketball coach at Catholic University.
Kelly has spent the last four years at nearby George Mason under head coach Dave Paulsen. He has been instrumental in the resurgence of the Patriots' program, working closely with the entire roster, contributing to in-game management and overseeing all recruiting efforts.
"We are thrilled to welcome Aaron back to the Catholic University community," said Sullivan. "Following a highly competitive national search, filled with numerous accomplished candidates, Aaron's astute preparation for this particular role saw him rise to the top of our pool. He has a deep understanding of our University, its people and what makes our basketball program both unique and special. He is a remarkable relationship builder. Having coached successful teams at a number of strong academic institutions, Aaron is well-versed in getting the very best out of not just student-athletes, but scholar-athletes. I have no doubt the young men in our program will benefit greatly from his tutelage in so many aspects of their daily lives."
Kelly helped George Mason become one of the nation's most improved teams. The Patriots went from an 11-21 record and 5-13 mark in Atlantic 10 games during his first campaign to 20 wins the following year before posting a school record 11 conference wins this season. In four years, George Mason has averaged over 16 wins per season and played in the 2017 College Basketball Invitational, the program's first postseason appearance since 2013.
As the Patriots' recruiting coordinator, Kelly successfully recruited 14 scholarship players who have significantly contributed to the team's success, including All-Atlantic 10 selections Otis Livingston II and Justin Kier. This season, Kier was an NABC All-District honoree and one of only 14 players in Division I to average 13 points, six rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals. Also this year, underclassmen accounted for 41 percent of Mason's minutes, 41.9 percent of their rebounding and 37.9 percent of their points.
Widely respected for his player development skills, Kelly helped Jalen Jenkins post career highs as a senior in scoring (12.0 ppg), rebounding (6.1 rpg) and field goal percentage (61.2) in 2017-18. Kelly also facilitated the recruitment of forward AJ Wilson who received an Under Armour All-America Top 80 ranking and forward Greg Calixte who was one of seven finalists for Mr. Basketball in the state of New York.
"I am incredibly honored to be the next head men's basketball coach at Catholic University," Kelly said. "I would like to thank President John Garvey, Director of Athletics Sean Sullivan and the members of the search committee for entrusting me with the future of our men's basketball program. As a proud alumnus, I will work tirelessly to ensure Catholic men's basketball is recognized as one of the country's premier Division III programs in academic success, on court performance and community outreach. I look forward to building relationships with our current student-athletes as we embrace and engage students, faculty, staff, community members, and alumni to foster an environment of enthusiasm and inclusion."
Prior to George Mason, Kelly spent seven years under Paulsen at Bucknell, helping the Bison to a record of 134-94, four Patriot League championships, two NCAA tournament berths and two NIT appearances. He helped secure 14 all-conference selections, including three Patriot League Player of the Year winners and five All-Rookie honorees. He worked with four All-Patriot League forwards, including Mike Muscala who is currently a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
As the team's academic advisor, Kelly oversaw six Patriot League All-Academic selections, two CoSIDA All-District honorees and one CoSIDA Academic All-American.
Before Bucknell, Kelly spent one season as an assistant coach under Paulsen at Williams in 2007-08 as the Ephs posted a 17-8 record. In addition to his duties in recruiting, scouting, player development and strength and conditioning, he also served as head junior varsity coach.
Kelly was an assistant at Clarkson in 2006-07 under head coach Adam Stockwell, helping guide the Golden Knights to a 14-12 record after they posted just five wins the previous season.
In 13 collegiate seasons, Kelly has 411 games of experience and has been a part of 230 wins, including 31 in two seasons at Division III.
Kelly graduated from Catholic in 2006 with a bachelor of arts in history. The Cardinals totaled an 89-28 record, advancing to four conference finals and capturing Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) championships in 2004 and 2006. They also made four postseason appearances, including three in the NCAA tournament in 2003, 2004 and 2006. Catholic was also ranked in the top-25 nationally with a high of No. 11 in the NABC Division III Coaches Poll on Jan. 22, 2003.
A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Kelly played in 91 games for the Cardinals and was elected team captain as a senior. He was also named to the CAC All-Academic Team. His brother, Sean, played three seasons for the Cardinals from 2004-07 after transferring from St. Lawrence.
Kelly lives in Fairfax, Virginia with his wife, Katie, and two sons, Sean and Jack.
"My wife and I look forward to immersing ourselves in the Catholic University community, and giving our children a place to call home," Kelly added.
What They're Saying About Aaron Kelly
"I've been blessed to have worked side by side with Aaron for the past 12 years. It has been a tremendous pleasure to see his growth as a coach, teacher, mentor and leader. Catholic is getting a great one. Not a good one. A great one. In my 25 years as a college head coach, there has never been a better assistant at connecting with people in every aspect of the job. He is remarkable at building and nurturing relationships with current, future and former student-athletes. Additionally, he has been exceptional at embracing faculty, staff, alumni and supporters of the team to ultimately build a sense of one complete program. He is a dynamic teacher of the game. He is a person of the highest integrity and character. I know how passionate he is about Catholic, and the opportunity to come back to his alma mater was just too enticing to not pursue. The Catholic student-athletes will be ecstatic to have him as their head coach."
Dave Paulsen, Head Men's Basketball Coach, George Mason University
"I am glad that Aaron has been offered this opportunity to coach at our alma mater. I was an assistant coach when he played for the Cardinals and he remains one my all-time favorite players. He was tough, smart, hard working and cared about winning and his teammates. I am sure those qualities remain today. I knew he would become a great coach once he chose to make it a career. I have stayed close with him and am happy that he has the chance to lead his own program. He is fantastic at developing relationships with players, alumni and the community. Having played at Catholic and coached at the Division I ranks, including at other great academic institutions like Williams and Bucknell, he will instantly be able to identify and recruit the right type of student-athlete for Catholic University. He has a great knowledge of the game, has done an excellent job with player development and has the proper temperament for mentoring today's student-athlete. He is going to create a healthy culture and continue Catholic's winning ways. He is going to do an amazing job for the University."
John Becker '90, Head Men's Basketball Coach, University of Vermont
"I am very happy for AK and his family to have this opportunity to return to his alma mater. He was a huge part of our success here, but more importantly, he is an outstanding educator and will be a great role model for his players. I have no doubt that Aaron's leadership will prioritize and support the healthy balance between academic, athletic and other co-curricular campus activities while tirelessly pursuing championships. I look forward to watching that success both on the court and across campus."
Tim Pavlechko, Deputy Director of Athletics, Bucknell University