Keady reaches his players with a message that's similarly upbeat. "He's of the you're-too-good-to-be-that-bad school of motivation," says Mark Montieth, a writer whose book Passion Play is for Boilermakers what A Season on the Brink was for Hoosiers. "His players all say he can chew your ass and make you like it."
Saturday, Jan. 13. Before the Minnesota game, the Purdue players inform the assistant coaches that they are dedicating their effort to Keady. "We told the guys, 'Now don't go dedicating the game and losing it,' " says assistant coach Bruce Weber. In the locker room after Purdue's 76-62 win, Keady thanks everyone for playing so hard and then breaks into tears.
The seeds of today's Boilermaker basketball were planted in the Kansas greenhouse where Lloyd Keady worked for more than 50 years, growing and potting flowers that he sold to flower shops to support his wife, Mary Helen, and their two kids. During junior high Gene worked eight-hour Saturdays for his father, helping out in the shop, making change and serving patrons. "I learned early in life that the customer's always right," he says. "You learn to listen."
Thus there's communication at Purdue that wouldn't take place at Indiana. "Play till there's blood in your socks!" Keady likes to tell his players. And one day in practice a Boilermaker actually popped a blister and, scarcely believing his good fortune, came running. "Hey, Coach, guess what? I got blood in my socks!"
Sunday, Jan. 14. Back in West Lafayette, Keady grabs a change of clothes and catches a flight to Sacramento. Norma meets him there, and they go over preparations for their father's funeral the next day.
A Depression baby from the Kansas plains fits in snugly at Purdue, a throwback of a school where over the years Mackey Arena has echoed with that venerable pop standard, K-K-K-Katy, in honor of the coach. This season Mackey is festooned with signs reading 3-PETE, a nod to both lantern-jawed school mascot Boilermaker Pete and Purdue's chance to become the first school to win three straight outright Big Ten titles since Ohio State did it in the early '60s. Keady won National Coach of the Year honors two years ago. He won them last season, too. Admit it: You did not know that. K-K-K-Keady—the only c-c-c-coach that they ignore.
Monday, Jan. 15. Keady looks after family matters in Sacramento and then attends the funeral of the man who "taught me how to work and not watch the clock. If you watch the clock, time goes slow. If you work hard, time goes fast." He leaves Sacramento on a red-eye to Chicago, where a team manager picks him up at O'Hare after midnight for the 2½ hour drive back to West Lafayette. Indiana will be in town in a few hours.
In 1981, during Keady's first trip to Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Knight shoved to the side a referee who had the nerve to obscure his line of sight. When the officials failed to call a technical, Keady erupted. "In Kansas, if you touch a referee, they'll shoot you!" he screamed. In the process of giving Keady a technical, an official told him he wasn't in Kansas anymore. "If you have any guts, you'll throw his ass out of here!" Keady yelled. While giving him another technical, the official told Keady he didn't much care for his having ventured onto the court to press his case.
Knight got a win that day, but he learned not to trifle with the new coach at Purdue. Over the years Keady has had cordial relations with his professional nemesis. Once, when Pat had to go into the hospital for surgery, Knight sent her a bouquet—red and white carnations arranged around a black one and a gold one. And before one Indiana-Purdue game in West Lafayette, Pat, aware of Knight's fondness for chocolate, gave him a batch of her homemade fudge.
Purdue won that night, and there's a story that as the Hoosiers made their way back to Bloomington, Knight ordered the team bus to stop. He disembarked, took Pat's fudge and flung it disgustedly into the Indiana night.