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By LARRY VAUGHT
NEW ORLEANS â€” Louisville coach Rick Pitino knew for his team to beat Kentucky, or even compete with the Wildcats, it must win the rebounding battle.
â€œWe knew they were going to play like starving dogs on the glass. We haven’t eaten in a week, and the only food for us is the rebound. We had a very difficult time early. The game early, when we got behind, really hurt us. It took so much incredible energy to get us back in the game, and they gave it,â€ Pitino said after UKâ€™s 69-61 win Saturday that puts the No. 1 Cats into Mondayâ€™s national title game.
Louisville won the rebounding 40-33 and had 19 offensive rebounds. Still, the Cards shot just 34.8 percent (24-for-69) from the field and Pitino and his players knew why â€” Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis.
â€œThe difference, quite frankly, is just Anthony Davis is the No.1 player picked in the draft.Â When you’re playing against Bill Russell at the pro level, you realize why the Celtics won 11 world championships. When you see this young man at the collegiate level, you realize why they’re so good. Not that their other players aren’t, but he’s so much of a factor,â€ Pitino said.
Davis had 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the field. He had 14 rebounds, including 12 defensive boards, and blocked five shots. The Cardinals couldnâ€™t guess how many shots he changed.
â€œAnthony Davis, he’s a great player. He can change every shot. Everything we try to get close into him, he’s just so â€” I would say he has good footwork.Â He kind of falls back a little bit and times his shot pretty well,â€ Louisville guard Chris Smith said.
â€œHe just has great length, so he’s able to alter shots. It’s difficult for guards like Peyton (Siva) and Russ (Smith) to get a clean look like they usually do,â€ Louisville teammate Kyle Kuric said.
“Without Anthony Davis, they are average defensively, they are pretty good, but with him, they are No. 1 in the country,” Russ Smith said. “At the end we couldn’t capitalize on all those chippy shots around the basket. We had so many opportunities, but we couldn’t score.â€
Russ Smith was 4-for-15 from the field. Peyton Siva was 4-for-11 and Chris Smith 3-for-11. Center Gorgui Dieng was just 3-for-10 from the field against Davis.
But Russ Smith said Kentuckyâ€™s whole demeanor makes the Wildcats difficult to beat.
“They have everyone in attack mode going to the basket all the time, everyone attacks offensively,” Smith said. “That’s what they’re great at. They are always looking to score.”
However, Pitino said to beat Kentucky, it starts with figuring out how to evade Davisâ€™ defensive presence.
â€œI think a little bit at the end, you’ve got to get the shotâ€‘blocker. What they do is if you run a pickâ€‘andâ€‘roll, he stays in the lane. You got to get your people to seal him, bother him, duck in on him, overpower him,â€ Pitino said. â€œGorgui is not at that stage to do that yet.
â€œAre they beatable?Â No question about it, because Vanderbilt did it. But you’re going to have to play great offense, great defense, and you got to bring your Aâ€‘plus game and they have to have a B game. That’s what has to happen. They’re a great ballclub. You have to get one or two guys in foul trouble. But Kansas and Ohio State are capable of having an Aâ€‘plus game, and so are we.Â We just didn’t have it.â€
Pitinoâ€™s 1995-96 national championship team at Kentucky had a roster full of future NBA players like this UKâ€ˆteam does and dominated most teams like the Cats have this year. Still, Pitino said every team is â€œdifferentâ€ and noted that his 1996 championship team was deeper.
â€œBut their six are every bit as good as our (first) six, so you can’t really compare eras,â€ Pitino said. â€œI will say this, that Anthony Davis is as fine a basketball player as there is. They have a great basketball team, one that I know John (Calipari) is really proud of.Â To tell you the truth, I haven’t always liked some of the Kentucky teams.Â I’m not going to lie to you.Â But I really like this team a lot because of their attitude and the way they play.
â€œI’ll certainly be rooting for them hard to bring the trophy back to Kentucky because I’m really impressed with them, not only as basketball players, the way they carry themselves, their attitude.Â They’re a great group of guys, doing a tremendous job. Louisville will be rooting for Kentucky, which doesn’t happen very often, to bring home that trophy to the state.â€
By LARRY VAUGHT
NEW ORLEANS â€” For almost 34 minutes, Terrence Jones did almost nothing to make sure that the reason he came back to Kentucky for a second season was going to happen.
Jones bypassed going to the NBA after UKâ€ˆlost to Connecticut in the 2011 Final Four because he wanted to win a national title.â€ˆYet when Louisville turned a 46-34 deficit into a 49-49 tie with 9 minutes, 12 seconds to play Saturday, Jones had been playing like he was auditioning for a part on UKâ€ˆsuper fan Ashley Juddâ€™s TV show, â€œMissing.â€
He wasnâ€™t rebounding as the Cardinals owned the boards in a way no team had this season against UK. He wasnâ€™t scoring. His defense was suspect. Kentucky coach John Calipari got so infuriated with Jones that he jerked him out and scolded him harshly on the bench.
â€œWeâ€™ve got a great relationship,â€ said Jones. â€œHe tells me what he sees. I donâ€™t see things playing as well as he does. When he tells me, I do it.â€
Or at least he did to end the game and thatâ€™s a major reason UK won 69-61 and will advance to Monday nightâ€™s national championship game. Jones finished with six points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. He was only 3-for-8 from the field and 0-for-3 at the foulÂ line.
But he powered his way inside to score with 6:21 left to give the Cats a 55-51 lead. He got a defensive rebound, missed a contested shot and got another defensive rebound that set up a 3-pointer by Darius Miller. He got another rebound and blocked Louisville guard Russ Smithâ€™s shot. He drove inside and scored to make it 62-53 with 2:27 left and the Cats held on to a win in a game that fascinated the state all week.
This was the first Final Four matchup between the rivals, and as much as both teams tried to say it was just another game, it wasnâ€™t. A walk down Bourbon Street Friday night confirmed that. A walk anywhere near the Superdome Saturday verified that. The noise level inside the dome confirmed it.
â€œWeâ€™re one game closer to our dream and achieving our goal,â€ freshman center Anthony Davis said. â€œOur fans are great to us. We just go out and play ball, but we want to give them a show and give them what they want, which is a national championship.â€
Davis played like the consensus national player of the year and was the overall difference in the game. He had 18 points (7-for-8 from the field), 14 rebounds, five blocked shots and two assists. Just his presence allowed other Wildcats to get easy shots â€” a big reason UK shot 57.1 percent (28-for-49) from the field.
As the game ended, Davis threw the ball high into the air, took out his mouthpiece and said, â€œThis is my stage.â€ It was a rare show of emotion by the UK All-American, but it was that kind of game.
â€œIt was a close game and was very emotional,â€ Davis said. â€œWe fought the whole game. We come to Kentucky built for this. We go hard in practice. We are out there to have fun. I am just glad to be here with a national championship chance as a freshman. I had to do this for my team. Iâ€ˆknew I could make plays. My team needs me to play well and thatâ€™s what we did tonight.â€
True, but Davis and his teammates need Jones to play like a lottery pick, too. And thatâ€™s especially true when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, UKâ€™s most physical player, gets in early foul trouble. With Kidd-Gilchrist limited, the Cards banged on Davis to wear him down and dominated the rebounding most of the second half before Jones came alive.
â€œWe knew the game would stay close,â€ Jones. â€œNobodyâ€™s going to quit in this atmosphere and certainly not Louisville. They got a lot of offensive rebounds and those final minutes I just could not let my team down. Coach told me to get in there and fight and get the ball, so I did.â€
Sounds simple. So why did it take so long to â€œget the ballâ€ for Jones?
â€œI was thinking too much. I was worried about last year (and losing in the Final Four),â€ Jones said. â€œThen it was like I saw the time left and knew â€ˆhad to play a lot better. I donâ€™t think it was the pressure of the rivalry or anything. We just finally got the job done like we have all year. They made runs. We made runs. It was just a great win.â€
For Louisville, it was a difficult loss to a Cinderella Final Four run. However, Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he told Calipari after the game he would be â€œpulling for youâ€ to win the national title and to â€œbring the trophy back home to Kentucky.â€
That trophy hasn’t been â€œbrought back home to Kentuckyâ€ since 1998. Thatâ€™s a long time for the Wildcat faithful to go without a title and the players know they want one just as much as the team does.
â€œI am sure the fans will be the same way the next game (Monday),â€ Miller said. â€œNo matter who we play, we always have great fan support. I am sure they wanted this one bad, but to us it really was just the next game because our main goal is to win a championship, not beat a certain team.â€
However, being that â€œcertain teamâ€ from the Bluegrass has UKâ€ˆback in the title game for the first time since 1998 and Kentucky within one game of the national championship quest it has been pursuing all season.
AP National Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -Â Kentucky wound up right where it expected to be all along.
Even if it took a little work to get there.
Anthony Davis and top-seeded Kentucky will play for the national title Monday night after finally putting away pesky Louisville 69-61 in the Final Four on Saturday night.
It will be Kentucky’s first appearance in the title game since winning a seventh NCAA crown back in 1998 and gives coach John Calipari another shot at the title that has eluded him. The Wildcats (37-2) will face the winner of Kansas-Ohio State.
As the final seconds ticked down, Davis screamed at the crowd and pointed to the court as if to say, “This is our house!”
Yes, yes it is.
With Davis, everybody’s player of the year, leading a star-studded roster, Kentucky was the top seed in the tournament and the heavy favorite to cut down the nets when the whole tournament was done. And coach John Calipari wouldn’t let his young players consider anything else, saying repeatedly this was “just another game.”
But playing in-state rival Louisville (30-10) is never just that, and the Cardinals made Kentucky work deep into the second half to grind this victory out.
Louisville outrebounded Kentucky 40-33, including a whopping 19-6 advantage on the offensive glass – the sole reason the Cardinals were able to make a game of this.
“They never stopped playing,” Calipari said. “They got up into our bodies, created turnovers and gave themselves a chance to win.”
Bigger, bulkier and with Davis having a wider wingspan than some small airplanes, the Wildcats looked like playground bullies as they pushed Louisville around on their way to a 13-point lead early in the second half. But the Cardinals know a thing about rallies after coming from 11 points down to beat Florida in last weekend’s West Regional final, and they sure made Kentucky sweat.
Russ Smith made back-to-back buckets to start a 15-3 run, and Peyton Siva capped it with a 3-pointer from NBA range that tied the game at 49 with 9:11 to play. But Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who played just 23 minutes because of foul trouble, made back-to-back buckets to give the Wildcats some breathing room.
After Siva made a pair of free throws, Terrence Jones scored on a jumper and Darius Miller drilled a 3 – only Kentucky’s second of the game – to give the Wildcats control for good.
“I’m proud of this team. They’re coming together,” Calipari said. “They’ve taken on shots and runs like Louisville did today, and they’ve held their own, so I’m proud of them.”
Just to make sure Louisville didn’t get any wild notions about another Â late comeback, Kidd-Gilchrist threw down a monstrous dunk with 1:05 to play that had Kentucky fans on their feet and assistant coaches from Kansas and Ohio State scrambling to try and find a way to stop this juggernaut.
Kentucky shot a dazzling 57 percent – yes, that’s right – with Davis leading the way. He missed just one of his eight shots and finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Miller added 13 points, and Doron Lamb had 10. Kidd-Gilchrist had nine, all in the second half.
“We’re one game closer to our dream and our goals,” Davis said.
Siva led the Cardinals with 11 points, and Dieng had 12 rebounds.
The Kentucky-Louisville rivalry causes tempers to flare even in December when, in the grand scheme of things, games really don’t mean much. Heck, it took government intervention just to get the two schools to play on a regular basis back in the 1980s.
With the NCAA title game on the line, the latest skirmish in basketball’s version of the civil war so divided the small hoop-crazed state that senior citizens actually came to fisticuffs and made for must-see TV. The game was such a big deal that No. 1 Kentucky fan Ashley Judd wasn’t even the biggest celeb in the house, with Jay-Z taking a prime seat behind the Kentucky bench.
“It’s our fans, our fans are great to us,” Davis said. “Our fans travel a long way. We want to go out here and give them a show and give them what they want, which is a national championship.”
LOUISVILLE (30-10):Â Kuric 3-8 0-1 7, Behanan 4-9 2-2 10, Dieng 3-10 1-1 7, Siva 4-11 2-2 11, C. Smith 3-11 1-2 8, R. Smith 4-15 1-2 9, Swopshire 0-0 0-0 0, Justice 0-0 0-0 0, Blackshear 3-5 2-3 9. Totals 24-69 9-13 61.
KENTUCKY (37-2):Â Jones 3-8 0-3 6, Kidd-Gilchrist 4-6 1-4 9, Davis 7-8 4-6 18, Lamb 4-9 2-3 10, Teague 4-8 0-0 8, Miller 4-7 4-4 13, Vargas 0-0 0-0 0, Wiltjer 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 28-49 11-20 69.
Halftime_Kentucky 35-28. 3-Point Goals_Louisville 4-11 (C. Smith 1-2, Kuric 1-2, Blackshear 1-2, Siva 1-2, R. Smith 0-1, Behanan 0-2), Kentucky 2-7 (Wiltjer 1-1, Miller 1-4, Lamb 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Louisville 40 (Dieng 12), Kentucky 33 (Davis 14). Assists_Louisville 7 (Siva 3), Kentucky 9 (Teague 5). Total Fouls_Louisville 16, Kentucky 14. A_NA.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
In late December, I wrote that the Cats and Cards play one of the most important games of the season for bragging rights for the next 12 months. Boy, was that wrong. Here we are 3 months to the day since that December 31, 2011 encounter for Cats and Cards, Take Two. But, this encounter is not for mere state wide bragging rights for the next few weeks, or even months.
This is for all the marbles.
First, the winner will play on Monday night for the 2012 National Championship, and second, the winner will deliver to its respective fan base the bragging rights for probably the next generation. Twenty nine years ago this past Monday the Cats and Cards met for the first time in Stokley in Knoxville, TN for a trip to the final four in 1983 and bragging rights that have endured to this very day. On Saturday night, the Cats can either set that record forever straight, or the Big Blue Nation must endure another 20 to 30 years.
That is all that is at stake in this improbable meeting of two programs that saying â€œhateâ€ one another is a woefully inadequate summation.
(http://bigbluefans4uk.com/BBF4UKPages/UKBBHISTORYUKvUL.htm Read about the history of this â€œRivalryâ€ at this link.)
I do not intend to recount any of the records of either team in anticipation of this game. Rather, I encourage you to visit the link, reminisce about the history, and know that the NGE analysis predicts, for what it is worth under these circumstances, an 8 point UK win over the Cards, 71-63. However, if there is ever an instance in which you can throw the records out the window, this is it.
By LARRY VAUGHT
NEW ORLEANS â€” Knowing what a special season Anthony Davis had already had, I thought it would be interesting to see how he reacted to receiving the Adolph Rupp Award as the nationâ€™s top player.
It was the first of three straight awards he would pick up here â€” he received player of the year honors from the United States Basketball Writers Association as well as The Associatedâ€ˆPress â€” but this was the first one and I also knew Kentucky coach John Calipari would be presenting the award to his star freshman.
However, I was not expecting what I saw â€” Calipari broke down as he was presenting the award. The Kentucky coach had only said a few words when he stopped, wiped his eyes and just handed the trophy to Davis and then hugged him.
â€œYes, that really surprised us, too, and made me cry,â€ said Erainer Davis, Anthonyâ€™s mother. â€œI guess with Anthony being such a humble, wonderful person and not changing through all of this, it made Coach get emotional just like it did me.â€
Anthony Davis admitted Friday he was a bit stunned by Calipariâ€™s reaction as well and never anticipated anything like that from his coach.
â€œHe gets emotional when it comes to his players. It means a lot to him. When he talks about one ofÂ his players doing something great, he gets every emotional,â€ Davis said. â€œThat just shows how much he really loves us and not just because we play for him and he puts on a front. He really loves us and you can tell by the way he acted when he had to talk about me. I had not seen that from him. It really touched me. I know it made my mom cry and almost did me, too.â€
Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart helped bring Calipari to Kentucky three years ago. He spends time with him and sees him often in public settings. He had never seen that type of emotional outburst from the coach, either, and especially did not expect it less than 48 hours before UK would be playing Louisville in the Final Four.
â€œThat very much surprised me. Iâ€ˆhave not seen that often,â€ Barnhart said. â€œI think that speaks to what he thinks not of just Anthony, but this whole team. He loves this group of guys and heâ€™s very emotional about them and what they have brought to this program in a very short period of time. It means a lot to him. He is as tied to a group of guys as Iâ€ˆhave seen. Iâ€ˆhave been around him three years and in that time, I have never seen him get as emotional as he did with Anthony. It was very touching, very special.â€
Barnhart says â€œfor a kid 18 or 19, Davis has been an incredible representative for Kentuckyâ€ this season and will continue to be that way even if he leaves for the NBA since heâ€™s expected to be the No. 1 pick in the June NBA draft.
â€œHe handles himself with such grace for kid of such a young age. I went to the last couple of awards ceremonies for him and he is just maturing beyond his years and experience level. Heâ€™s never had that experience and he jumped on the stage and showed up and here it all came. Heâ€™s handled it great,â€ Barnhart said.
â€œHis parents are wonderful, nice people. They are incredibly humble, and thatâ€™s Anthony. He will be an incredible ambassador for Kentucky, Cal and a program I think he appreciates very, very much. We have appreciated his talent level, but we have appreciated the way he has gone about everything.â€
By LARRY VAUGHT
Teammates know how important Doron Lamb, who had 14 points Sunday against Baylor to increase his career total to 986 points, has been to a second straight Final Four push for Kentucky.
â€œDoron is a huge part of this team. His ability to score the ball and also get everybody else open looks is a huge part of what we do. He provides a lot of open opportunities for us just because people are afraid to leave him,â€ senior Darius Miller said. â€œThe way he shoots the ball, he gives us open lanes and stuff like that. He’s gotten better pretty much every day since he got here. He’s always been a huge part, but he continues to get better.Â I think that’s one of the main key parts for our team.â€
â€œHe’s really gotten a lot better at playing point guard, just ball handling, trusting himself to go both ways and run down the court and stop and just control the offense like Marquis (Teague) does is just what helps us the most,â€ Terrence Jones said.
Lamb was a New York standout. He chose UKâ€ˆover Kansas, Connecticut, West Virginia and Arizona. He played against former UConn star Kemba Walker in high school.
His mother, Brigitte Grant, had a huge influence on his early career.
â€œMy mom is a big part of my life since I was little. She took me to all my games, even when Iâ€ˆplayed different sports she was there for me. I think she did not miss a game my whole life. She traveled everywhere I would go. She would even bring me on the court and make me do crossovers between cones and lay the ball up. She goes hard. She knows the game really well,â€ Lamb said.
She didnâ€™t let his grades slack, either. When he was in fourth or fifth grade, he wanted to go see high school phenom Sebastian Telfair of Brooklyn play. His mother told him she would take him only if he made 100 on his spelling test.
â€œThe day before the test, my mom would always test me for school. My mom told me if I did not get 100 on the test, I couldnâ€™t go. I had to get 100, and I did. So I got to go to the game and had a great time,â€ he said.
Sometimes itâ€™s hard to tell if Lamb is having a â€œgreat timeâ€ on the court or not because he seldom shows emotion.
â€œI have always been playing like that for my whole life. My nickname back home was the Smooth Criminal. They say I was real smooth in my game but I never did a lot hype or screaming.â€ˆI just handle my business and get out of the gym,â€ he said. â€œBut I always have fun with my teammates. This year we have a lot of jokers on our team. Everybody wants to joke around and go have a lot of fun. We always have jokes for each other and have a great time. I think Anthony (Davis), me and Marquis (Teague) really are the biggest jokers. We are always joking around.â€
Lamb joked about his early swimming prowess and says if he was not a basketball player, he feels he could be an Olympic-caliber swimmer.
â€œHeâ€™s really funny. He is a strange person. He does a lot of things that make you laugh and go, â€˜I canâ€™t believe you just did that.â€™ He is a good person. He is just fun to be around,â€ Jones said. â€œI know he thinks he can be anything. A singer, rapper. Whatever he thinks he can be, he thinks he can. I have never seen him swim, so I donâ€™t know how good of a swimmer he is.â€
Today Lamb, though, is all about basketball.â€ˆHe knows the national hype Saturday nightâ€™s semifinal match with in-state rival Louisville has created and what impact it has had on the Bluegrass.
â€œWe have a lot of pressure on us. Every team we play wants to beat us. All our fans want us to win every game. Everybody thinks we are supposed to win the whole thing. Knock on wood, but we donâ€™t. We had a great season and a great year together. I would be happy with my team no matter what happens,â€ he said. â€œBut thereâ€™s nothing better than the Final Four. I just want to go out and have fun in my second Final Four. A lot of teams donâ€™t make it once, so I know how lucky I am.
â€œWe felt we should have won last year. We know we have to play all 40 minutes and we tell the freshmen we have to play hard and never give up on a possession. We have to help these freshmen in the Final Four. They have never been thought this before so me, Darius and Terrence have to help them and carry them on our backs against Louisville.â€
Vaught’s Note: Larry Vaught wrote this column that ran on April 2, 2008, just after Bill Keightley passed away. Vaughtsviews.com reruns the column as a tribute on the anniversary of Mr. Wildcat’s death.
April 02, 2008|Larry Vaught/Danville Advocate Messenger
Bill Keightley never minded talking about University of Kentucky basketball. However, what he didn’t like was talking about himself.
He was far more comfortable telling stories about players or coaches – or even shoes or other basketball equipment – than he was focusing the spotlight on himself.
His problem, though, was that Kentucky fans, players, coaches and even media members loved to listen to him because he had been part of the UK program since 1962.
He had been UK’s full-time equipment manager since 1972 and had worked under coaches Adolph Rupp, Joe Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie.
Keightley had become such a part of the storied Kentucky basketball tradition that he was affectionately known as “Mr. Wildcat” and in 1997 joined legendary broadcaster Cawood Ledford as the only non-player or coach to have a jersey retired at Kentucky.
That’s why news of his death Monday was so hard to fathom. Sure, he was 81. But it was a young 81.
I had just talked to him at the NCAA tournament in Anaheim. I was scheduled to go on a cruise with him and former UK stars Mike Pratt, Kyle Macy and Kenny Walker in July.
Now he’s gone.
Keightley fell Monday in Cincinnati as he was on his way to watch the Cincinnati Reds play. He later died in surgery from internal bleeding caused by a previously undiagnosed tumor on his spine.
He was the best ambassador for UK basketball anyone could ever have imagined. He was beloved by everyone and had to be the nation’s most famous equipment manager.
It didn’t matter if it was ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, North Carolina coach Roy Williams or some longtime UK fan, they all knew and liked Keightley.
I still remember asking UK senior Joe Crawford, who is from Detroit, what he thought about Keightley earlier this season.
“We would go to get our equipment and he would always be talking and cracking jokes. It does not take a long time to build a relationship with him,” Crawford said. “He knows everything about Kentucky basketball. He has studied the tradition and pushes that every day.
“He has been here through everything from the toughest times to the best times. It is just fun to hear certain stories from him and when you tell him things, you know you have not been in the worst situation because he always knows someone that had it tougher and made it.”
That might have been one of the things I liked best about Keightley. It was easy for him, or anyone, to befriend stars like Kyle Macy, Sam Bowie, Rex Chapman, Derek Anderson, Tony Delk, Tayshaun Prince or Chuck Hayes. But he was there for every player, including ones like Rodrick Rhodes who eventually transferred or Cliff Hawkins who came to truly love the venerable UK equipment manager.
By his senior season in 2004, Hawkins hugged Keightley before the start of every game. Hawkins did it as a way to say thanks to Keightley for all he did to help make sure he made it to his senior year.
“He’s one of those guys when you feel down and out, you can go to him and he makes you smile and laugh. I just love him to death for that reason. We’ve had some great talks during my career here. No matter what happens, Mr. Keightley will make you laugh and smile. I love him,” Hawkins said then.
Hawkins marveled then that Keightley could do what he did at age 77.
“He might look old, but in the heart he is still a kid,” Hawkins said. “You can’t do anything but admire him. He’s the first one to the gym and the last one to leave. I’ve never seen a day when he’s down.
“When I first met him, he made me feel warm and comfortable. I always had a good vibe with him. He’s always positive no matter how you played. He’s been through all types of games. It’s like he’s a player himself. He knows what we go through because he’s seen it all.”
Keightley’s open-door policy enabled him to be the “good guy” after a coach had scolded a player. He would help players overcome homesickness or even social problems.
Retire” Keightley hadn’t considered it.
“I don’t guess I’ve really tried doing anything else for a long time,” Keightley said during an interview in 2007. “Everyone should seek some employment that they enjoy every day. I don’t want to stay at home watching television and reading the newspaper. I want to be out where the action is. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Being around these kids keeps me young.”
And going. And going. And going.
How else could Keightley not only have touched so many players” lives, but also helped so many student-managers” He was as proud of what former managers like Mercer County’s Spencer Tatum and Vincent Tatum have done as he was of what any player or coach ever did.
“They are all just like sons. It is just something you just cherish in your memory. I have had so many kids that have worked with me that are so successful in life,” Keightley said in that 2007 interview. That is one of the great pleasures that I have enjoyed here.”