Mutual Respect: Izzo and Keady

For a coach like Tom Izzo, it must be truly difficult to see what his friend and opponent Gene Keady has had to endure during the last season at Purdue.

For a coach like Tom Izzo, it must be truly difficult to see what his friend and opponent Gene Keady has had to endure during his last season at Purdue.

Keady's final year in West Lafayette has been a disappointment to say the least.

Honestly, the last few seasons haven't been a cakewalk for Keady. There were many folks last spring who expected the now 25-year Boilermaker skipper to leave for greener pastures and take the head coaching job at the University of San Francisco.

There are probably also more than a few, then and now, in and around West Lafayette, Indiana, who wished he would have done just that.

Loyalty to his players was the deciding factor in Gene Keady deciding to return to Purdue for one final season. Loyalty has always been a Keady trait; so it was no surprise that Saturday afternoon, over 50 former Purdue players and staff members paid tribute to their former coach and colleague during halftime of the Boilermakers 68-57 loss to Michigan State.

Also in attendance was former MSU head coach Jud Heathcote, who remains one of Keady's closest friends in all of basketball.

While certainly wanting nothing more than a victory Saturday against the Boilermakers, the moment wasn't lost on Tom Izzo.

"I told our players last (Friday) night that, in all honesty, this was going to be an emotional day for me, too, because I love what he has done for the game of basketball," Izzo said. "So I told them ‘The best compliment you can give him is to play your butt off."

Izzo has tremendous respect for Keady as a coach and a man, and makes no bones about his feeling on how Keady has been treated during the twilight of his Purdue tenure. "I'm keeping track of what's going on here, because I think it's really undeserving he has to go through this at a place where he's done so much."

To Keady's credit, he has weathered his final days in West Lafayette with the toughness and uncompromising demeanor that has been his trademark. Keady is the epitome of old school class. The boos and catcalls have never bothered him, because there has never been anyone more critical of his performance than himself. One of the great things about Keady is that, in this day of media savvy coaches and talking head commentators, he has never been afraid to say what's on his mind.

Things were no different Saturday. He was given a technical foul by the officials after throwing his suit coat on the floor while protesting a non-call during the second-half. His comments after the game were clear, measured, and to the point. In short, they were textbook Gene Keady.

"I've never liked this crew," he said of the officials. "It's nothing personal, but we've never had a good relationship or whatever you want to call it. I got fed up with the calls not being made consistently. . . . Of course the coat went off and I should have gotten two technicals. I should have been gone."

Keady has always been fiery, outspoken, and colorful. He has also never been a quitter. Which is another reason why he choose to stick it out for one last season in West Lafayette.

Just as important is the fact that when you take a look at what the man has accomplished over the last 25 seasons, you can see why he was allowed to do so.

Keady led Purdue to six Big Ten championships (1984, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1995 and 1996) during his tenure, including three straight outright titles from 1994 to 1996. That feat has been accomplished by only one other team -- Ohio State from 1960 to 1962.

Keady's was named National Coach of the Year six-times (1984, 1988, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 2000).

Purdue has finished in the upper division of the Big Ten 18 times during Keady's tenure. He has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year a record seven times (1984, 1988, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 2000), tying former Indiana coach Bob Knight for the most all-time selections. Keady is the only coach to win the award three straight years.

Overall, the Boilermakers have won 25 or more games six times with Keady at the helm: 29-4 (1987-88), 29-5 (1993-94), 26-6 (1995-96), 28-8 (1997-98), 25-5 (1986-87) and 25-7 (1994-95).

The Boilermakers have had 20-plus wins 14 times under Keady, and posted a school-record six straight 20-win seasons between 1983 and 1988.

Keady has led Purdue to 22 postseason tournament appearances (17 times in the NCAA Tournament) and has averaged 21.2 wins per season going into this year.

Keady has an overall record of 512-265 at Purdue (.658), making him the schools all-time winningest coach. The next closest coach on the list is Ward Lambert, who won 371 games with the Boilermakers from 1916 to 1945.

In nearly 27 seasons as a Division I collegiate head coach, he owns a record of 550-284 (.659). Counting his time in junior college, high school and four stints as USA Basketball head coach, his lifetime head coaching ledger is 879-376, a .700 winning percentage.

Gene Keady's Boilermakers have been successful in the classroom as well as on the basketball court. Nearly 90 percent of the seniors who have stayed at Purdue for four seasons under Keady have graduated.

Does anyone else get the feeling that many Purdue basketball fans won't realize just how good Gene Keady was until he is gone?

I think we all know what Tom Izzo's answer would be.


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