Gene Keady is latest with Kansas State ties elected to Naismith Hall of Fame
Growing up in basketball-centric Kansas, Gene Keady, whose induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame was announced on Saturday, gravitated to ... football.
“I was better in football,” Keady said.
Good enough to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958 out of Kansas State, where Keady also lettered in baseball and track and field.
But basketball coaching is where Keady made his mark. The Larned, Kansas, native got his first teaching job at Beloit High. The school needed a basketball coach, and that’s where Keady’s career began.
From high school to Hutchinson Community College, to Western Kentucky and Purdue, with other stops along the way, Keady, 86, spent a lifetime in the sport and is now part of its hall of fame.
“This is my greatest achievement,” Keady said.
His most notable period was the 27 years he spent with the Boilermakers, where he was seven-time Big Ten coach of the year and six time league champion.
Keady finished at Purdue in 2005 and retired from coaching permanently in 2015 with one of his final stops as a Toronto Raptors assistant, making Keady one of the few who coached at the high school, junior college, major college and NBA level.
“When you coach at all different levels you get a feel for how to motivate your players,” Keady said.
Keady had been inducted into the Kansas City-based National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013 but believed he would never get a call from the Naismith Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“I wanted it to, but I didn’t think I would,” Keady said.
Although basketball didn’t top his list of participation at a young age, Keady, like many growing up in Kansas, was locked into the sport.
In the early 1950s, Phog Allen coached at Kansas, Jack Gardner and Tex Winter at Kansas State and Ralph Miller at Wichita State. “They were all good,” Keady said. “I followed all of them.”
All of those coaches are in the hall, and now Keady joins them. He’s the seventh person with close ties to K-State that’s been elected and the fifth coach, joining Gardner, Winter, Cotton Fitzsimmons and Bob Huggins.
Also in the hall are former K-State players Mitch Richmond and Bob Boozer, who was elected as a contributor to the 1960 U.S. Olympic team.
Saturday, Keady joined a Hall of Fame Class that included former NBA stars Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and current San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich.
From the college coaching ranks besides Keady are Jim Valvano (North Carolina State), David Hixon (Amherst), Gary Blair (Texas A&M women), Becky Hammon (WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces) and Gene Bess (Three Rivers Mo., Community College). Also inducted is the 1976 U.S. Olympic women’s team.
The class will be enshrined on Aug. 12 in Springfield.