GVSU had become pretty good when he took over. They were playoff team prior to him starting there. Beck got hired by ND after that season, which opened up the job for Kelly. He spent 10 seasons, 3 playoff appearances with first round losses, mostly 8-3 seasons with a 5, 6, and 7 win season thrown in. Then in season 11-13 he made the championship and won twice.
At CMU he took over a 3 win team and then won 4, 6, and 9. That was the only time he really turned around a really bad team.
At UC he took over an 8 win team and won 10, 11, 12. He certainly rose the program to new heights. But it wasn't a turnaround scenario.
I guess it's fair to say he had a program-building reputation. But that was largely from lazy reporting and self-interested praise from his boss.