Santa Clara University

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A family show, by Steven Boyd Saum

When new men's basketball Coach Kerry Keating talks the talk, it's about community, civility, competitiveness, and attention to detail. Plus text messaging and what's on his iPod.

For his debut on the floor of the Leavey Center, Kerry Keating ran into overtime. After all, Keating said at the April 9 press conference, you only get to be named head coach for the first time once in your life. He'd just traded a spot as assistant coach at UCLA to follow in the footsteps of Dick Davey and Carroll Williams as head men's basketball coach at SCU. There was tradition to honor, families and staff to introduce, stories to tell of the men who have mentored him, a music riddle to pose for the reporters assembled, and questions to ask. Such as, "Where do the Ruff Riders sit?"

Coach Kerry Keating
Photo: Charles Barry

Or another: "Why SCU?" Which would help answer the question on the minds of Bronco b-ball fans near and far: Why Kerry Keating? And why now?

Right man at the right time

Dick Davey headed the SCU team for 15 seasons, with three decades altogether at Santa Clara as coach, mentor, and educator. When Davey announced on Feb. 1 that he would be stepping down, the con­ventional wisdom was that Santa Clara had its sights set on a new coach. The sports columnosphere and blogosphere were aflutter, and more than one opinionator fingered former Stanford Coach Mike Montgomery as the likely suspect. Meantime, the Broncos wrapped up the season with a run for the conference title, only going down before Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tourney.

Keating and the Bruins made it to the Final Four for the second year in a row but lost to Florida. Less than a week later Keating was on campus at SCU. Not just for a flurry of meetings, but to walk the paths and feel the presence of the place: who the people are, the sense of community--and, yes, family.

For weeks already SCU Director of Athletics and Recreation Dan Coonan had been doing his homework and had come to the conclusion that Keating was the right man at the right time. He has energy and integrity in spades, Coonan surmised, and he's shown himself to be a lights-out recruiter with a spotless compliance record. He's been apprenticed to Buzz Peterson at Tennessee, Tulsa, and Appalachian State, and he's assisted at Wake Forest and his alma mater, Seton Hall. Along the way, he's been pegged as one of the nation's top 25 collegiate recruiters, top 10 assistant coaches, and has been lauded as the "most high tech" assistant coach in the nation. And don't forget twice being named best dressed assistant coach in the country. (See photo.)

Take good shots
“There's an illustrious history here that I'm proud to be a part of.”
—Kerry Keating

"This is one of the greatest foundations in college basketball," Keating enthused about Santa Clara. "There's an illustri­ous history here that I'm proud to be a part of." Davey, who's an integral part of that history, has stepped into a new role to raise funds for SCU athletics.

At age 35, Keating becomes the youngest head coach in the WCC. He's assembled a cast of assistants who are all younger still--but who, collectively, have nearly a quarter century of experience in the confer­ence. Sam Scuilli returns for his 12th season on the SCU coaching staff, joined by Lamont Smith from St. Mary's and Sam Scholl from the University of San Diego.

Keating cited the lessons he's learned from his mentors: keeping a sense of family and civility; attention to detail that's second to none; a physical style of play; and unequivocal commitment to defense. "I'm not going to tell our guys not to shoot," he said, "but I'm going to tell them to take good shots." He also promised some things that have never been tried before at Santa Clara.

At the same time, he said, "This isn't about me. This is about Santa Clara." He said it was about players, present and past. "And it's about our family."

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