If you've ever lived in the D.C. area there's a couple things that you'll know are true. First, anyone carrying a camera is clearly a tourist. Second, people who live in the area love brunch. I don't mean they love brunch like normal people love brunch. For folks out here it's sort of a religious experience. Every restaurant imaginable has a brunch menu. Everywhere you look you see advertisements for bottomless mimosas or bloody mary's. It's a whole industry out here. The Purdue Alumni Club of DC took advantage of those feelings on Sunday when they hosted a brunch at the Mansion on O Street. My wife and I were able to get a couple of tickets and attend the event. In attendance were former Purdue player, and current Congressman from Florida, Curt Clawson, and the legendary coach himself, Gene Keady. I'm not sure how many of you have had the opportunity to have a chat with Coach Keady but he truly is one of the nicest guys in the business. I wanted to share some of the highlights of the day with all of you.
First off, be sure to take a good look at the picture I posted for this. It's amazing how good coach looks. Coach is currently 78 years old and honestly looks better than he did probably 10 years ago. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he got rid of the, ahem, "hair" that he had during his coaching days. We have his second wife to thank for that. One of the stories coach shared was about an event that he and Coach Bobby Knight attended not too long ago. At the event Coach Knight made a point to recognize Coach Keady's wife and publicly thank her for forcing her husband to get rid of that ridiculous hair. If you've not seem him up close since then it really is night and day difference. Second, Coach is just as warm and friendly as ever. After his talk he stayed around and signed autographs and took pictures with everyone who was in attendance. This wasn't just a smile and move on type of thing either. Coach was asking questions of people and clearly interested in the answers. He would follow up with additional questions and was glad to chat with you for a couple of minutes despite the line. It was a breath of fresh air.
Before Coach spoke he was introduced by Curt Clawson. Clawson seemed genuinely thrilled to be introducing his former coach. It was a great moment for him as he was able to be able to get up and speak about not only the type of coach that Coach Keady was, but the type of man. You could tell by the seriousness in his tone that Clawson truly considers Coach Keady a mentor and a friend. Considering that Clawson graduated from Purdue in 1984 you have to love how close the two remain. I think their friendship illustrates the kind of men Keady recruited and the type of bond they formed on and off the court. While Keady's time at the podium was short, roughly twenty minutes, there were a few nuggets that I thought were interesting that I wanted to pass along.
- When Purdue was picked to finish last in the conference in 1984 Coach made a bet with someone, I couldn't quite hear the name, that if Purdue won the conference title Coach would get the signed Babe Ruth baseball that this man possessed. Purdue won the Big Ten and sure enough Keady got himself a signed Babe Ruth baseball. He said that's one of his favorite stories because it shows that it doesn't matter what others say about you.
- He talked about his early career and being a high school teacher and coach. I didn't realize that at his first few jobs he coached basketball, football, track and field, and even golf. He said he knew basically nothing about golf but was still the coach. He said on many nights he would go to track practice then immediately head over to golf practice. For perspective he did all those coaching jobs plus a full time teaching gig and made $4,300 a year.
- Show up early and stay late is the mantra of success for Gene Keady. He said that's one way he got ahead in the coaching game. He was always willing to put in the hours and make sure he was staying one step ahead of other people. You could always see this in his coaching career as he became notorious for doing more with less.
- He mentioned on numerous times his love for Purdue and how nice everyone was to him. He said his first interaction with anyone from Purdue University was after he was drafted by the Steelers and met Len Dawson. He said Dawson was one of the nicest guys he had ever met and was always friendly to the rookies like Keady. That always stuck with him and when he had the opportunity to interview for the Purdue job he really wanted it because of how friendly everyone seemed to be.
- One interesting tidbit was how much he loved Lafayette, but not for the reason you'd expect. He said he loved it because there was no traffic. He apparently hates getting stuck in traffic and bragged that in his time at Purdue he could get the five miles to the office from home in five minutes with no trouble.
- I was able to ask Coach a question during the Q&A. I asked him what of all his accomplishments he is most proud of. I guarantee you won't guess correctly what he's going to say. I'll give you a minute. Still thinking? I bet you thought it was maybe one of the national coach of the year wins? Maybe he's successful marriages? Maybe the fact that he has eight former players out coaching now? Nope. None of those. He told me his greatest accomplishment was being listed as one of the top 100 Irishmen in American alongside the Kennedy boys. I kid you not. You couldn't make that stuff up. The crowd had a nice laugh at that one.
- Coach is a firm believer in making your bed. He says it prepares you for the day and gets things off on the right foot. In fact, he told a story about the last time he went to Curt Clawson's home and the bed wasn't made. He called up Clawson and was ready to rip him for it when Clawson politely let Coach know that he rented that house out and wasn't currently staying there.
- I also learned to never be late for a Gene Keady coached practice. He said that the penalty for being late was 100 stairs in Mackey Arena. He of course wanted everyone to know that when he says 100 stairs he doesn't mean 100 individual stairs. He means 100 sets of Mackey Arena stairs. Each up and down counts as one. He said it generally took about two to two and a half hours to get that done. He said folks usually didn't come late more than once.