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Knight v. Keady: will the rivalry ever return to that level?

Travis at Hammer and Rails wrote a nice piece earlier today about the Indiana-Purdue rivalry as it existed during the twenty seasons in which Bob Knight and Gene Keady were coaching at IU and Purdue.  Travis highlights some of the more memorable games in the series from a Purdue perspective, both win and lose, and I can’t disagree with most of his selections.  The two most memorable games I would add were IU's home wins over Purdue in 1993 and 1994, but mainly because I was there.

As Travis notes, many IU and Purdue fans long for the days of the Knight-Keady showdowns, and a big reason for that is because of how competitive both programs were during that era.  On the other hand, even if Tom Crean and Matt Painter end up in the top ten perennially, I don’t think anything ever will quite recapture what it was like when Knight and Keady were in their primes.  This is no slight against Crean or Painter, but what made Knight v. Keady something to behold is the quality of the teams combined with their unique personalities.


Knight, of course, is a legend, the winningest coach in the history of college basketball (until his pupil and former IU graduate assistant Mike Krzyzewski catches him), and one of the great basketball minds of all time.  Still, for all of his greatness, Knight is equally remembered for the hot temper that eventually brought him down and that led to unfortunate incidents such as the chair toss in a 1985 home loss to Purdue.


Keady, while usually charming to the media and not prone to Knight-caliber explosions, was a raging lunatic on the sidelines, arguing every call from the tip to the buzzer and producing f-bombs in quantities that even Knight could not match.  He seemed to believe that the entirety of college basketball was conspiring to screw him, constantly, on a play-by-play basis.  This paranoia made Keady and Purdue fans a perfect match. His constant sideline rage, combined with his, well, unusual physical appearance, made him something to watch.  Gene Keady is the only person I have ever seen who looks more realistic in bobblehead form than in real life.  Seeing these two legends stalk the sideline in the same game may never be matched, even if Crean and Painter finish 1-2 in the Big Ten every year.  

Certainly, both Crean and Painter are intense guys.  But it’s a different era in college basketball.  No matter how heated things get in this series, can you imagine either one of them doing this?

So, that’s that.  It won’t ever be the same.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t be great again.  IU and Purdue have hated each other since long before either Bob Knight or Gene Keady was born.

As for whether Knight or Keady holds head to head lead?  Well, I really don't care.  As Travis notes, on the court, Keady holds a 21-20 lead.  On the other hand, Purdue officially has forfeited the 1996 game, because Luther Clay, a player who was paid thousands of dollars by a Purdue booster in a sham loan scheme orchestrated by Keady's top recruiting assistant, later was ruled ineligible.  Given how much Purdue fans have hassled IU about Sampson's misdeeds, I think it's funny how they gloss over the serious wrongdoing discovered in Keady's program and the "why" of Luther Clay's ineligibility.  Still, IU's official records show it as a Purdue win, and so do Purdue's, so they can have it.  As competitive as they were head to head, Knight's legacy dwarfs that of Keady in wins, winning percentage, NCAA championships, Final Four appearances, NCAA Tournament appearances, Big Ten championships, you name it.  Knight is an all-time great.  Keady is an all-time Purdue great.

While I don't think the feel of the Knight-Keady rivalry will ever return, I do believe that both programs are in a strong position to make the 2010s comparable to the 1980s and 1990s.  Purdue, obviously, is in great shape and the Boilermakers are contending for the Big Ten title for the fourth consecutive year.  On the other hand, Painter hasn't yet produced a blockbuster class to match the current seniors.  IU is a long way away on the court, but this young team is showing signs of improvement, and the talent in the pipeline, while dismissed by Purdue fans, is something to consider.  I think that it's a tough pill for many Purdue fans to swallow.  Last summer, when IU's recruiting was stagnant and the Boilermakers were a consensus top 5 team and expected championship contender, I think many Purdue fans were daring to dream of a great realignment, an opportunity for Purdue to win a championship and to emerge as the power in the state.  While Purdue still has a very good team, the injury to Robbie Hummel and Tom Crean's recruiting haul have done some damage to that expectation.  I think we will see a competitive series sooner rather than later.