Sydney Gene Keady never thought he'd be the last man standing.
When the old-school Big Ten basketball coaches' club dwindled to two Purdue's Keady and Indiana's Bob Knight Keady figured he'd be next to go. After all, he's five years older than Knight and he's been tempted to switch to golf permanently for years.
So when news traveled halfway around the world that Knight had been fired, Keady was speechless. For two days, he declined to talk about Knight's firing.
Keady broke his self-imposed silence Wednesday, lamenting Knight's ousting, but he still finds it difficult to believe.
"I was very shocked," Keady said. "I always figured he'd finish his career at Indiana and break the all-time win record. It's just sad for guys who respect the game."
Keady is in Australia, serving as an assistant with the U.S. men's basketball team for the 2000 Olympics. He says part of his reason for not talking about Knight immediately after the firing was because he had trouble getting firsthand news on the situation. One example: Keady heard a rumor that former Iowa coach Tom Davis would step in as IU's interim coach. Wrong Davis. IU assistant Mike Davis is the man tabbed to steer the Hoosiers.
Now that he's got the scoop, Keady expects Knight's departure to alter drastically the Indiana vs. Purdue rivalry, at least temporarily. He doesn't know Davis Mike, that is and part of the attraction of the teams' games was the battle between the coaches. Both Knight and Keady command great loyalty from their fans and ample derision from their opponents' fans. Both threw legendary temper tantrums. Both won in record-setting fashion. It would have been fitting if they bowed out together, but that can't happen now.
"The first few years the rivalry will be a lot different," Keady said. "I don't have the answers on how it will be different, but I do think it will take a couple years or more to get it back to where it was."
Keady's record vs. Knight is 21-20, the best of any coach. He insists the two coaches have remained cordial away from the court.
"He stood for the right things," Keady said. "He developed good players who played the game tough. The things he stood for are the things I believe in."
No one moment in the rivalry stood out as the most memorable, Keady said. "One thing I'll miss is the preparation for playing his teams," Keady said. "You had to make sure your team was prepared, and I really enjoyed that challenge."