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Monday, May 27, 2024

Rooting for Keady just seems right

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Danny Bridges
Danny Bridges

It’s hard to forget the profound look of disappointment on Gene Keady’s face in the 1995 NCAA Mens Regional Final in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as the game clock finally expired. His highly favored Purdue Boilermakers were upset by the Wisconsin Badgers, denying Keady a trip to the Final Four, which was played that year in Indianapolis, just one hour from the Purdue campus in West Lafayette, Indiana. 

Yes, a superb leader of young men that had been named National Coach of The Year many times with nearly five hundred wins to his credit suddenly saw his lifelong professional dream slip away by the score of 64-60 and in the process break every heat in Tippecanoe County and beyond that night.

While fiery on the court, the ultra-competitive Keady was a true gentleman off it, and is still beloved by the Boilermaker faithful as they head to Phoenix this weekend to face an upstart North Carolina State squad who crashed the party to the Final Four by taking the ACC Conference tournament, finishing off an improbable run by defeating Duke in the Regional Finals.

The Boilermakers who enjoyed several weeks ranked number one in the regular season are of course coached by Keady protégé Matt Painter who played for the man himself during an era when the player’s trunks were a lot shorter and the Final Four was still played in traditional basketball arenas instead of gaudy football stadiums. 

Throughout Painter’s coaching career he’s had the distinct advantage of having Keady close by for both consultation and support, with an unfiltered opinion being just a phone call away, that is when his long-time mentor and confidante isn’t sitting courtside at Mackey Arena and beyond watching.

It’s clear that Keady was always second fiddle in these parts to his good friend the late Bob Knight despite splitting the games in which they coached against each other.

By winning NCAA Tournament Championships, Knight was deemed iconic, and while that particular spotlight was something that never shined on him, there can be no doubt that Keady was a Championship caliber coach himself, despite what the overzealous Indiana University faithful might have one believe. 

If Purdue somehow wins the tournament, it will be the Matt Painter show without question. 

Keady’s day is in the past and he keeps a low profile in terms of his love for the Boilermakers and how he goes about supporting them.

However, no one would be happier for Purdue and more proud of the job Painter and company have done this season. The title would also be a pseudo endorsement of Keady’s illustrious tenure as well, one that cemented the program as a legit contender every time he led them in to battle for some twenty seasons.

Think a guy with all those Big Ten Conference Championships and coaching honors doesn’t envision this season ending with a title and a ring? You better think again. However, the mountain Purdue is climbing will include a date with the defending Champion and heavily favored Connecticut Huskies, and that’s a colossal opponent for them to overcome and reach the promised land on national television next Monday night.

Keady will be there front and center coaching vicariously through his former player, all the while rooting for his beloved Boilermakers. 

Somewhere l will be watching and rooting for Keady. Feel free to join.

Danny Bridges, who would really enjoy seeing Keady tear up as Purdue cuts down the net, can be reached at (317) 370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com. 

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