KNOXVILLE, TENN. Born and reared in Larned, Gene Keady still has some friends and family in Kansas.
"I won't have any friends there at 9 o'clock Thursday," Keady, Purdue's basketball coach, quipped Monday.
Keady's Boilermakers, 28-4, will meet 27-7 Kansas in a Southeast Regional semifinal at approximately 9 p.m., Lawrence time, Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"It's just like in 1988. I didn't have any friends before we played K-State," Keady said. The Boilermakers fell to Kansas State, 73-70, in the 1988 Midwest Regional semifinals in Pontiac, Mich. Two days later, KU beat Kansas State en route to the national title. "You've got to be loyal to your home state schools and I understand that."
Keady played football, basketball and ran track at both Garden City Junior College and Kansas State. He also coached seven years at Beloit High, nine seasons at Hutchinson CC, four years at Arkansas (assistant) and two at Western Kentucky, before landing the Purdue job 14 seasons ago.
He's compiled a 296-134 mark in West Lafayette, Ind., yet has never taken a team into the Elite Eight. Kansas, on the other hand, has reached the Final Four two times in the past three seasons.
"No doubt, they've been through this before and that's to their advantage," Keady said. "It's a different year and a different situation, entirely, but they have the advantage in knowing what's going on."
It all starts at the top, and Keady is a big fan of sixth-year KU coach Roy Williams.
"Roy and I are on the NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches) board together. He's one of the special guys in coaching," Keady said. "I respect not only what he's done at Kansas, but what he stands for, the way he handles himself. He's classy, is how I'd put it."
Keady and Williams both helped shape the career of current Illinois State coach Kevin Stallings, who apprenticed under both for five years and also played at Purdue.
"I talked to Kevin this morning. He said he has a lot of mixed emotions," Keady said. "When I heard that, I said, 'Wait a minute, where's your degree from? And secondly, your paycheck says Illinois State.' He'll be happy whomever wins. It'll be tough for him. I can understand that."
As far as KU's current personnel goes, Keady has admiration for Jayhawk senior Steve Woodberry.
"He's somebody we're very concerned about," Keady said. "He's a great shooter and will probably be guarding Glenn (Robinson). What makes Woodberry so tough is he's great on both ends of the floor."
Keady realizes 7-2 Greg Ostertag will present some problems, too.
"It seems everybody we play has a size advantage, and Kansas is no exception," Keady said. The Boilermakers have no starters over 6-8.
""We'll use our regular defensive principles. You can't guard a great offensive post player with just one man. We'll need some help.
"We're not going to change, and Roy sure isn't going to change. We're going to do what we've done all year and hope it's good enough."
In Purdue's case, that includes using a lot of players. KU uses up to 10 players a game. Ten Boilermakers average eight or more minutes.
"We're just like they are. We like to use a lot of players," Keady said. "The deeper you go in the NCAAs, the bench becomes a big key. In the championship game, it's not as important. You go with three or four off the bench, but we're a long way away from that."