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Coach Keady’s Career Ends on Losing Note

March 11, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) _ Maybe if the season hadn’t been so dismal, the losing so endless, Purdue coach Gene Keady would have felt differently when he walked off the court for the last time.

Instead, there was almost a sense of relief as he left to one more standing ovation. He’s spent 25 years stalking the sidelines at Purdue, scowling and looking as if he was having a miserable time, and he loved every bit of it.

But it’s time for something else now.

``It’s kind of pleasant,″ he said Thursday after his career ended with Purdue’s 71-52 loss to Iowa in the Big Ten tournament. ``I’m going to do what my wife has always wanted me to do: Stay home and do some work.″

In other games: Northwestern held off Michigan 58-56 and Ohio State rallied to beat scrappy Penn State 72-69.

Northwestern (15-15) will face No. 1 Illinois (29-1) on Friday, and Ohio State (20-11) will play No. 23 Wisconsin (20-7). Iowa (20-10) plays No. 13 Michigan State (22-5). In the remaining quarterfinal, Indiana (15-12) plays Minnesota (20-9).

The 68-year-old Keady said last spring that he would return to Purdue for one last season, his 25th with the Boilermakers. He helped pick his successor, Matt Painter, and hoped that would smooth the transition.

But nothing went smoothly at Purdue this year. Already down from several weak recruiting classes, the Boilermakers were hit hard by the injury bug. Leading scorer and rebounder Carl Landry blew out his knee, and David Teague, second in scoring, was limited by a broken hand.

Purdue finished 7-21, only the third time Keady has had a losing record at the school. The Boilermakers didn’t win a game away from Mackey Arena after Dec. 18. Purdue was just 3-13 in Big Ten play, the worst showing of Keady’s career.

``If we’d been winning and had a great year, and everything was going like it was supposed to, it might have been different, but not when you get beat,″ Keady said when asked if he was sad about leaving. ``I just don’t like the way things go. It’s kind of like a mercy killing. `Pull the plug, boys, and let’s get out of here.′ It’s no fun.″

His last game was no different. Purdue was out of it almost from the start, done in by the Hawkeyes’ barrage of 3-pointers. Less than six minutes into the game, the Boilermakers were down 12-2 and could not recover.

Keady looked as if he was in physical pain as he sat on the bench, squirming in his seat, scowling at errant passes, wincing at bad shots. He ran his hands up to that infamous combover countless times, and leaned back, exhaling in disgust.

``I just feel for him that his last year had to end the way it did,″ said Iowa coach Steve Alford, who played against Keady when he was at Indiana. ``I hope whatever it is, it’s his wishes and it’s what he wants to do. I know he can walk away right now and feel very satisfied he’s had a phenomenal career.″

Keady leaves with a career record of 550-289 that includes six Big Ten titles and 17 NCAA appearances. In a time where coaches come and go quicker than players, he’s a special breed: a coach with staying power. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Sacred Heart’s Dave Bike are the only active Division I coaches to have stayed longer at one school. Mike Krzyzewski is in his 25th season at Duke.

He’s also the last of the Big Ten’s old guard, coaches who spent decades at one school and built intense rivalries in the process. Jud Heathcote at Michigan State. Lou Henson at Illinois. Tom Davis at Iowa.

And of course, the biggest rival of all, Bob Knight at Indiana.

``He has great ethics, great character, great integrity,″ Alford said. ``He has done so much for our game at every level that he is going to be missed.

``It’s going to effect the Big Ten. That happened a few years ago when we lost Coach Knight. I feel the same way, in a lot of regards, in losing Coach Keady. It’s not going to be easy.″

When it came time for Keady to finally walk away, though, it really wasn’t that hard. He shook hands with Alford and the Iowa players, some of whom reached over to pat him on the shoulder in a mini hug. Then he walked off the floor, never looking back.

``I’ve had some place to be since the first grade. Think about it. And I don’t have to be at any place tomorrow,″ he said. ``I’ll probably be an `E.B.′ Errand boy.″

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