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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

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In Sports

College basketball color analyst Mike Kelley on the job at a Marquette home game. (PHOTO: Gail Sideman)

Mike check: courtside with a college basketball color analyst


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Kelley's college basketball craft continued to blossom, and there was always a "next one" on his hectic but adventurous hoops agenda during the winter months. The story twist is this: Mike Kelley didn't pursue more games. He actually subtracted them from his schedule.

Timeout. This rising star doesn't have a master plan to climb the ladder to pursue this elite sports career?

"I don't. And that's the irony," said Kelley. "The past few years I've been doing between 35 and 40 games which was really a lot for me considering I have a real job too and four kids. Just this year I sort of backed away and told them I didn't want to do any traveling and gave up my contractual obligation to doing a certain amount of games. I told them if you need me for local games I'll do it."

Dedication to his full-time responsibilities with his employer, as well as being a husband and father to kids ranging in age from 5 to 8 and 6-year-old twins in between, Kelley dialed back his basketball freelance gig to focus on the agenda at home and office. Leaving basketball behind was a choice Kelley already made once before when his playing days concluded in Madison.

"I signed with an agent, worked out with the Bucks and went to two summer leagues with the Bucks, but the NBA wasn't going to be an option," said Kelley. "The real option was playing overseas or just getting on with the rest of my life and running the family business. I ended up choosing door number two, being done with basketball and starting a family."

With home base in Menomonee Falls, Kelley treks to his job in Hustisford, where the family business, Associate Engineering Corporation, is under the watch of Vice President Mike and his father. It's a workplace the younger Kelley has called home since his senior year in college. And while manufacturing air compressors might not sound as glamorous as sitting courtside during a Big East smack down, Kelley couldn't be more genuinely satisfied and fulfilled.

"In the end I had been gone for three straight months of Saturdays," said Kelley. "My kids are getting older now and they're playing rec hoops so this is the first year I've been able to coach them, and I'm loving that. I'm not missing any more nights at home with my kids anymore, so that's a good thing. I'm real happy with the decision. I'm just way more invested in being a dad than having a second job that takes me away from home."

His assignments now are local in nature, putting Kelley courtside for a handful of Marquette games at the Bradley Center with an occasional Illinois trip tossed in for Big East match-ups involving DePaul. There's now more time in his day for the kids, for his 9-to-5 job, and for pre-game homework to stay sharp and in the loop.

"I like to figure out a match-up where a coach might say 'We've got to take care of this,'" said Kelley. "I always knew that as a player that if you played against a great offensive rebounding team, we've got to own the defensive glass. During the game, I kind of watch that and then comment on what a coach is trying to do and whether it's working or if the players are not able to execute.

"I also enjoy timeouts. That's a fun one for me to talk about ... what the coaches are drawing up and the adjustments that are being made."

The adjustments Kelley has made over the years seem to suit him just fine. The only ones that don't benefit from his unselfish acts are the college basketball fandom watching from their leather sofa in the rec room. Kelley has a gift, but never tries to flaunt it or become bigger than the broadcast itself by creating soon-to-be worn-out catchphrase calls.

"I'm pretty understated," said Kelley. "I'm not over the top or super high-energy. In the beginning, when I first started doing it, I thought the catchphrases were pretty cool, and you're always trying to think of something clever, but I don't think I'm clever enough to do that and make it work. It's not me.

"The biggest thing about personality of a broadcast is I really like working with my play-by-play partners. I've been blessed to have really good partners. When we're able to play off one another and have a good laugh, that's always way better than anything that's sort of forced or planned."

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