April 2, 2012
by Mark Janssen
Gene Keady says to name any four coaches in the game today and he would add the name of Bruce Weber in the mix of top five college basketball coaches.
"(Jim) Boeheim, (Jim) Calhoun ... go on and on and Bruce fits into the mix with these other coaches who will be in the Hall of Fame," said Keady of K-State's newly named head basketball coach. "He's a great detail guy and he's a great fundamental guy. He just plays the game right."
Keady said that Weber's coaching philosophy starts on the defensive end, extends to taking care of the basketball, "... and then shooting the 3 and running when the opportunity is there. He just has that good mix."
It was Keady, a 1958 graduate of K-State, who was on the phone last Sunday when it appeared that Frank Martin was going to leave for South Carolina.
"I just wanted to recommend that whoever it was that would be making the hire knew of him, and they said he was already on their radar," said Keady in a phone visit Sunday while he was in the New Orleans Airport on his way home from the Final Four.
No one knows Weber better than Keady as the two coached together at Western Kentucky (one year) and Purdue (18 years) for 19 seasons posting an overall record of 415-176.
While Weber's nine-year stay at Illinois ended in his dismissal last month following a 17-15 season, Keady called the firing "... ridiculous. He's a coach that had that school in the Final Four not that long ago (2005). What does it take? There was no reason for it, but we're in the business of what have you done for me lately."
Through Weber's nine years with the Illini, the school won 26, 37, 26, 23, 16, 24, 21, 20 and 17 games. He was 210-101 at Illinois, preceded by a 103-54 record at Southern Illinois during a five-year stay. Ten times he took his teams into the postseason with eight of those being in the NCAA.
But more than the winning, Keady says of Weber, "He's a man of integrity. You'll never have to question his loyalty. K-State got a good one."
Keady, now a special advisor on Steve Lavin's staff at St. John's, has nothing but fond memories of his days in Kansas, and his days as a Wildcat.
Growing up in Larned, Keady attended Garden City Junior College where he was an All-American quarterback in football, but also played basketball, baseball and ran track.
At K-State, he played receiver and halfback in football, outfield in baseball, plus had the rare double of throwing the shot put and running the 60-yard dash in indoor track.
Chuckling, Keady said, "Tex (Winter) said he had watched me in junior college and didn't need me. And he didn't. He took them to the Final Four."
Keady went on to say, "I really enjoyed my coaches - Bus Mertes (football), Ward Haylett (track) and Ray Wauthier (baseball). Those guys were also my professors, so you didn't dare miss classes."
While Winter didn't need his talents on the floor, Keady was in the stands enjoying each moment that the Wildcats took the floor in Ahearn Field House.
"I remember John Wooden bringing his UCLA team in with Gail Goodrich," said Keady. "Tex's teams really completed. I remember going early in the day and watching wrestling, then the freshman basketball game, then the varsity game. It was a long day, but I had a lot of fun."
While going only 6-13-1 in his two football years as a Wildcat, Keady says, "The game I remember is going to Nebraska and winning (23-6). They already had a quarterback here, so I moved to wide receiver. If it was catchable, I would catch it."
Keady would be a 19th-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but would never play professionally.
Keady would accept his first basketball coaching job at Kansas' Beloit High School where he posted a record of 142-47 from 1959-1965.
Hutchinson Community College would be his next stop as an assistant for one year, and then head coach and posting a winning percentage of .796 (187-48).
Keady then became an assistant to Eddie Sutton at Arkansas from 1975-78 when the Razorbacks went 94-24 before getting his first Division I head coaching job at Western Kentucky from 1978-1980 posting a 38-19 record.
Purdue was Keady's next stop where he won a school record 512 games, which made him the second winningest coach in Big Ten history, only behind Bob Knight. In NCAA competition, Keady was 20-19 with one of those losses coming to K-State in the Sweet 16 Round of the 1988 NCAA Tournament.
"Honestly, we were probably overrated as a No. 1 seed," said Keady of losing to the Wildcats, 73-70. "I just remember they had that NBA player (Mitch Richmond) and we didn't."
Not only did Keady lose to his alma mater in the last game of the 1987-88 season, but also in the first game of the 1988-89 year when the Boilermakers visited Manhattan to help open Bramlage Coliseum on Nov. 26, 1988.
"I let Jack Hartman talk me into that," said Keady. "I just remember one of my assistants (not Weber) got a technical foul. It wasn't a real fun ride home."
Keady was respected enough to be an assistant coach for Dream Team 2000, which went 8-0 and won the Gold Medal in the Olympic Games in Sydney. In all, USA teams that Keady helped coach went 22-2, finishing first twice, second once and third once.
After a brief stint as an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors, Keady joined St. John's program as an advisor and special assistant.
Now 75, Keady has found life good in the "Big Apple" as he recently got engaged. The wedding date? "That's a good question. You'll have to ask her."
Of any advice he gave Weber in taking the K-State position, Keady said, "None. He doesn't need my advice. He knows what he's doing."
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