By Mark Ambrogi
Through most of his life in the public eye, former Purdue basketball coach Gene Keady had abided by a rule: Don’t discuss politics or religion.
Lately, he can’t help himself. At the Westfield Chamber of Commerce luncheon July 21 at The Bridgewater Club, Keady said he was struggling with what had to be highly unscientific presidential poll he had seen.
“If somebody gets elected I don’t like, I may move to Ireland,” Keady joked. “This morning, I panicked. I looked at my phone and it said this presidential candidate has 75 percent of the votes if we elected today, and the one I like has 25 percent. What happened overnight? How did we lose so many votes? I’m struggling with that right now. We need a president who can turn this country around. I shouldn’t have gotten into that. Shut up, Keady.”
Keady never mentioned Donald Trump by name to the audience, but had made news when he joined Trump in campaign stops in Carmel and South Bend in May.
“Trump is a great guy,” Keady said afterwards. “He wants to be president for the right reasons. He wants to help America get back on its feet again. I enjoy his attitude toward life. I just think this country is so screwed up right now. We need help.”
Keady, 80, said his wife, Kathleen, told Trump 10 years ago he ought to run for president.
Besides sharing some basketball memories with the crowd, Keady offered tips for success.
“If you respect people, they’re going to respect you,” Keady said. “Treat them with good manners and like my wife is always telling me, you have to be a better communicator.”
Keady said the two things he always found important in motivating people were honesty and enthusiasm.
“If you are a phony, people can see right through that,” Keady said. “You’ve got to be enthusiastic about your job. I always loved going to work at Purdue.”
Keady was Purdue’s coach for 25 years before retiring in 2005. He spent the 2005-06 season as an assistant coach for Toronto in the NBA but left to be with his then-ailing wife, Pat, who died in 2009. He spent five seasons as St. John’s assistant coach under Steve Lavin, one of his former assistants. Lavin and St. John’s mutually parted ways after the 2014-15 season. Keady and his wife live in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“I miss it, but I only miss the teaching part,” Keady said of not coaching. “It’s OK, we’re having fun.”
The next Westfield Chamber of Commerce luncheon is scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 18 at The Bridgewater Club, 3535 E. 161st St.
For more, visit westfield-chamber.org/events/August-Chamber-Luncheon–652/details.