Whitesburg KY

Loss of friend leaves writer feeling very blue

It’s been about eight weeks since we lost the true “lead Cat”, the point guard for Big Blue Nation.

It’s also time I share some of the experiences I had with Mr. Wildcat with you, so this column the next two weeks will be devoted to my ole buddy whom I miss very much as I go through this first summer without him in my life.

Excluding coach Joe B. Hall, Bill Keightley was the last and most visible and loved member of the original UK dynasty started years ago by Adolph Rupp. But the last 25 to 30 years Bill Keightley was much more than the UK basketball equipment manager, he wore many different hats for UK.

Bill was an eloquent and charming speaker on the banquet circuit with his witty stories about his experiences under the six UK head basketball coaches for whom he worked and they always resulted in knee-slapping laughter from his audiences. Many times in the past years UK’s coach or athletic director would hook Bill up with a perspective high roller donor when the program needed money or a special project constructed.

In 1987 when UK had one of it’s preseason scrimmages at the high school where I was coaching, the team rolled into the parking lot that evening and as they got off the bus I noticed a very successful central Kentucky banker had ridden up with the team and guess who was assigned the seat next to him for the ride up the Mountain Parkway. Yep, one Bill Keightley. The following week the university announced a major advertisement deal with his bank for UK’s radio broadcast. It doesn’t take a mental heavyweight to see who pulled that deal off.

Bill’s most impressive attribute to me was his down-toearth demeanor and humble personality. It was intoxicating immediately when he met UK’s players for the first time as they arrived on campus each fall and they all immediately leaned on him as their father or big brother figure for the remainder of their career at UK.

Trust me when I tell you this. Bill Keightley, not an assistant coach, kept many a frustrated freshman from departing the famed program and going home, whether it be for being homesick or upset with the head coach. Keightley had a knack for righting the ship with a player and getting him back on course.

From 1977 to 1996 I spent four to six weeks each summer helping UK and Bill with their annual summer Wildcat basketball camps. As I look back they may have been the most enjoyable times of my life.

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