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Trying Times at PURDUE
Alexander Wolff
January 29, 1996
Facing Indiana was the easiest thing coach Gene Keady did in a week full of personal hardship
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January 29, 1996

Trying Times At Purdue

Facing Indiana was the easiest thing coach Gene Keady did in a week full of personal hardship

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Tuesday, Jan. 16. Keady gets home at 4 a.m. and naps for two hours. A Learjet is supposed to fly Pat back from New Jersey for tonight's game and take Gene back to his daughter's bedside after it. But after descending to within 200 feet of the runway in West Lafayette, the pilot has to divert to Cincinnati because of fog. Pat misses Purdue's 74-69 defeat of Indiana.

Typically, during a first-half run in which Purdue opened up a lead it never relinquished, the 11th Boilermaker to get into the game—a freshman guard named Alan Eldridge—scored seven points in barely a minute. Typically, too, at week's end no one on Keady's team was averaging more than guard Chad Austin's 11.6 points a game. Purdue is so balanced that it had spread leading-scorer honors among seven different players this season.

"I don't really think it's the players," says one of them, guard Todd Foster. "It's the coaching staff. And their scouting reports. What IU did tonight—that's what the coaches told us they'd do. And if we'd have lost, it would've been our fault."

Wednesday, Jan. 17. Gene and Pat catch a 6 a.m. flight back to New Jersey. By noon they're again with Lisa, who is still in a coma. The doctors see "normal progress": She responds to muscle stimulation, and her blood pressure rises with the sound of voices around her. But even if she comes to, there will be a new range of questions.

"You can see me in an intensive-care ward where there are comas, can't you?" Keady says. "You know, Mr. Patience? So it was not much fun this week."

Keady did make it back to Purdue for Saturday's 71-67 loss to Illinois, which ended the Boilermakers' Big Ten winning streak at 10 games and left their record at 14-3. But as of Sunday night Lisa still hadn't regained full consciousness, and even Gene understood the absurdity of getting indignant at the trifling unfairnesses meted out by Big Ten referees. "Lisa has brought us back to that point [Duke coach and former exhaustion victim] Mike Krzyzewski talked about, of realizing what really counts," he says.

Gene and Pat Keady and Glenn Sands do not stand vigil alone. In Lisa's room there's a stack of cards and faxes and telegrams. Flowers are everywhere. And after that game against Indiana, Knight told Keady he would be sending a bouquet of his own. A kind gesture, thinks Gene Keady, a man who knows what it takes to grow a flower.

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