It’s not very often a Hall of Fame coach makes his way to La Grande.
But that’s exactly what will take place in a month.
Gene Keady, the former Hall of Fame basketball coach of Purdue University, will be speaking at a luncheon Oct. 13 on the Eastern Oregon University campus and attending the Eastern Oregon Alumni Game that night, head men’s coach Carlito Labarda Jr. announced Monday.
“It’s kind of like a tipoff luncheon before our first game, which should be a fun day,” Labarda said of the event. “Pretty informal — a small luncheon at the cafeteria. “He’ll speak for about 5-10 minutes and greet everybody.”
Keady has more than 50 years of coaching experience between high school, college and a brief stint as an NBA assistant coach. He is best known for his tenure as the head coach of the Boilermakers. From 1980-2005, Keady won 493 games and twice led Purdue to the NCAA Division I Elite Eight. Among his numerous accolades, Keady is a five-time winner of the National Coach of the Year Award.
He last coached as an assistant coach at St. John’s in 2015, but has remained involved in the game since. The 81-year-old Keady has reached out to former players or staff members who worked under him throughout the years, naming Kansas State and Southern Utah among the schools with former staff or players that he’s visited.
“I try to help them with their programs,” he said. “Whatever they asked me to do I did....I try to help if they want me to.”
Keady said there are currently 12 of his pupils coaching, including Labarda.
“The people who worked for me are like family, so I try to help them out in their careers,” Keady said. “(Labarda’s) a special guy in my life.”
Labarda, who was named the head coach of the Mountaineers in late June, was a student manager for Purdue from 1994-97, and a student assistant coach under Keady from 1998-99.
Labarda said Keady attended a similar event at Carroll College, where Labarda was an assistant coach prior to arriving at EOU. Carroll head coach Carson Cunningham is also a member of the Keady coaching tree, having played under Keady at Purdue.
“It was a tremendous event,” Labarda said. “He’s great with people (and) loves basketball. He’s doing it to support me and Eastern Oregon.”
Keady, who currently lives in South Carolina, has been to Oregon several times, making stops in Beaverton as his Purdue teams were clothed by Nike.
He’s not yet made it to Northeast Oregon, however.
The luncheon takes place beginning at 3 p.m. at the Hoke Union Building. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased by contacting Labarda at 541-962-3569 or email@example.com. The event is first come, first served. About 150 tickets will be sold for the luncheon, Labarda said.
The EOU alumni basketball games take place at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. that evening.
Editor's note: This story has been updated.