On Sunday the University of Maine announced that former head coach Rudy Keeling passed away at age 64 after a battle with an undisclosed illness.
In 13 seasons as a head coach (eight at Maine, five at Northeastern), Keeling posted a record of 154 wins and 214 losses. In 1994 Keeling was named North Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Black Bears to a school-record 20 victories.
“The Black Bear Men’s Basketball program, and the entire UMaine community is deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of Coach Keeling,” Maine head coach Ted Woodward said in a statement released by the school. “He was an outstanding coach, a first-class person and representative of the University of Maine, and a beloved and highly respected member of the entire basketball coaching community.
“He touched many lives of young people here at Maine, was an outstanding example of character, integrity, and intelligence, and his influence has, and will continue to be felt throughout our great school and all of college athletics.
“It has always been an honor to follow in his footsteps at the University of Maine and the wonderful example he provided daily and throughout his career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and to all the outstanding young men who had the tremendous opportunity to be coached and mentored by him.”
Named commissioner of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) in 2007, Keeling officially retired in mid-January.
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With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.
And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.
Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.
Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.