Lloyd Eugene Keady was just named a finalist for the 2021 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. We of course know him better as Gene Keady. The legend. The namesake of Keady Court. The gruff man who roamed the sideline for 25 years as the Boilermakers’ head man. What an honor it would be.
Coach Keady was hired by Purdue in 1980, five years before I was born, and was the coach until 2005 when he handed the reigns off to Matt Painter. During those 25 years Coach Keady had one heck of a run. It’s true he never made it to the Final Four or won a National Title but there’s more to coaching than that. Coach Keady racked up 512 wins (according to Purdue) becoming the winningest coach in Purdue history and second in the conference behind only his rival and friend Bob Knight. Coach Keady won the Big Ten coach of the year honor seven times. This can be chalked up to the low expectations his teams often had. Keady would take a team picked to finish 5th or 6th in the league and wring every ounce of talent out of them until they were champions. The Boilermakers won six conference titles during his time at Purdue including the incredibly rare Three-Pete from 1994-1996.
Keady’s accolades weren’t just limited to Purdue though. He also had numerous stints with USA basketball resulting in him winning an Olympic Gold Medal at the 2000 Sydney games as an assistant coach with the men’s basketball team. He grabbed two additional gold medals at less prestigious events The World University Games and the National Sports Festival. Keady led the 1991 men’s team at the Pan-American Games to the bronze medal.
Following his retirement from Purdue Keady stayed active in the basketball world doing some work at St. John’s under friend Steve Lavin as well as a stint in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors. Keady eventually found his way to TV as an analyst with the Big Ten Network. He now spends his days watching the Boilermakers and spending time with his second wife and their lovely animals.
On a more personal level this news fills my heart with joy. Two quick Gene Keady stories before moving on. First, when I was just a child my family would often spend time at Purdue for basketball or football games. On what must have been a football game day, I don’t remember the specifics, my family and I were walking between Ross-Ade Stadium and Mackey Arena when I saw Gene Keady walking by. Being the young precocious boy I was I yelled out “Hey Gene!” and gave him a big wave. He looked my direction, gave a gigantic smile, threw his arm up in a wave, and kept walking. It mortified my parents that I’d done it but it made my day. Second, once my wife and I moved out to Maryland we went to the occasional event with the alumni club of D.C. One such event was at the Mansion on O Street where Gene Keady was the guest speaker. He told great stories and then stayed for autographs and pictures. He was so kind and patient with everyone and was genuinely interested in who my wife and I were and what we did and what our majors were when we were at Purdue. They always say not to meet your heroes but Gene Keady is the exception to that rule. The man lived up to everything my young heart built him into.
Should Coach Keady be honored to go into the Hall of Fame I can’t imagine it happening to a nicer person. Good luck to Coach as he moves through this process.