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Archive for Monday, November 1, 2004

Purdue’s Keady begins farewell tour

Veteran coach saying goodbye after 25 years with Boilermakers to dismay of peers

November 1, 2004

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— Gene Keady has always been gracious about giving his fellow Big Ten coaches advice and this, his final season at Purdue, is no different.

Rocking chairs are not welcome. A nice set of golf clubs is fine. A new car or a trip would be even better.

The start of the season may still be a couple of weeks away, but an era is ending. After 25 years at Purdue, Keady is saying goodbye and the Big Ten is already feeling the loss.

"I, personally, love the guy," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Sunday at Big Ten media day, where coaches found themselves talking as much about Keady as their own teams.

"He just does so much for the game and for the conference and for the school," Izzo said. "He's such a professional, he's a guy that cares about the sport and all of us. None of us will match what he's done, we can only aspire to get close."

Keady announced last spring that he would return to Purdue for one final season, his 25th with the Boilermakers. He then helped the university pick his successor, Matt Painter, to ensure the transition would be as smooth as possible.

Painter, who led Southern Illinois to a 25-5 record and the NCAA tournament in his first season as head coach, is spending the year as an assistant before taking over.

"It's been great, I've really enjoyed it," Keady said. "I like the way things are going.

"Now if we win at the level I want to, things will be perfect."

Keady is the last of the Big Ten's old-guard, coaches who stayed at one school for decades and built intense rivalries in the process. There was Jud Heathcote at Michigan State. Lou Henson at Illinois. Tom Davis at Iowa. And of course, Keady's biggest rival of all, Bob Knight at Indiana.

They were all successful, and they helped make the Big Ten a basketball powerhouse.

"He's outlasted a lot of the legends in the game," said Illinois coach Bruce Weber, who spent 18 years as Keady's assistant at Purdue. "He's the last of the characters."

A character he is. His combover hairstyle has been the source of jokes for years -- Indiana native David Letterman has poked fun at it -- and his trademark scowl and on-court tantrums make him seem gruff and surly.

But underneath is a caring coach who schools his players in both life and basketball.

Keady, who has a 505-249 record, knew he was in for a season-long farewell tour when he announced this would be his last year. He saw it with Heathcote, who received all kinds of gifts from his rivals, including a clock from Iowa.

"I expect cars, trips," Keady joked.

He said he doesn't want his departure to be a distraction for his players.

"I want to play games. I don't want to go through that," Keady said. "I'll keep players in the locker room and then we'll move on. I don't want them part of that. I want them focused on the game."

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