Reporting Shane Kitzman
If St. Thomas basketball’s assistant coach Mike Keating were to snag a nasty little paper cut while dishing out scouting reports, I’m certain his blood would not be a maroon hue.
Instead, it would undoubtedly be a deep shade of purple.
Not only did the St. Paul native don the purple for Cretin-Derham Hall and become a Mr. Basketball finalist, but Keating sported violet yet again during his college years, helping the University of St. Thomas win back-to-back MIAC titles.
As a Tommie, his teams were 47-10, and he was the consummate basketball teammate, averaging a healthy 15.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, and shooting 84 percent from the foul line.
Fittingly, after spending more than a decade helping Tommie head coach John Tauer with his summer basketball camp, Keating, 29, is enjoying his second year back in the color of royalty as part of Tauer’s UST coaching staff.
“To be at St. Thomas, and to coach with Tauer — a guy who coached me (as an assistant to Steve Fritz) when I was there — is an honor,” he said.
Tauer targeted Keating for his staff because of his selflessness.
“One of the greatest compliments a player can receive is when others like to play with them,” Tauer said. “Mike’s unselfish attitude, openness to learning, and ability to work with players at all positions made him a perfect fit to join our staff.”
Tauer and Keating’s squad is ranked No. 1 in the nation and playing like it. The Tommies are 27-1, demolished its first opponent in the NCAA tournament and appear poised to win its second national title in three years.
St. Thomas now hosts Wheaton at 8 p.m. Saturday.
When Keating isn’t breaking down film, or helping the offense lead the country in field goal percentage, the 2007 St. Thomas graduate took time to share his appreciation for ending up back on the very court he missed so dearly.
After scoring 1,470 points for St. Thomas, Keating found his niche post-graduation thanks to an old teammate
“Right after school, I worked for a company that works with a group home for autistic kids and adults. I floated around for a while. I had been coaching some AAU for a couple years, and then I started assistant coaching at Rosemount with (Bryan) Schnettler, who I played with at St. Thomas.
That jump-started everything for me — without Bryan’s help, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now at St. Thomas. “
Keating’s basketball prowess caught Tauer’s eye years ago during summer camps
Tauer: “I vividly remember seeing him as an 11-year-old, and commenting that he understood the game as well as many college players. Mike understood how to space the floor on offense, help others on defense, and how to value the basketball to be as offensively efficient as possible.”
The 29-year-old lives in the film room for UST
“I edit previous games and the film for all of our upcoming opponents. Right now, with the NCAA tournament, we’re looking at one game a week.
For us, movement is a big thing on offense. If we throw it inside, we need to make sure perimeter guys are cutting off of them and not standing around.”
Outside of basketball season, he’s a voracious reader and an Irish football fan
“I’ll read anything nonfiction — history, biographies, sports books. I’ll read anything John Feinstein writes, and I’m huge into crime novels, like “Black Mass” by Whitey Bulger.
I’m also a diehard Notre Dame football fan — my older brother, John, went there. So, my Saturday afternoons in the fall are booked.”
Though he was one of the MIAC’s best, he doesn’t hoop much anymore
“I think I’d miss it a lot more if I weren’t as involved as a coach. We wish we could all be 19 and do what our body did back then. I still can shoot well, but moving and defense aren’t up to par these days.”
He misses the Schoenecker Arena of old
“I loved playing there — part of it is childhood memories, and going there when I was a little kid.
But they’ve done a great job with the new athletic complex and arena. I think ours are as good as any at the D-III level.”
It wouldn’t be easy even for Keating himself to make the 2012-13 roster
“Back then we played probably seven guys consistently. It’s about 10 right now. And I wasn’t a good enough athlete to press when I played, but our team does it now. The talent level now, from one through 19, is better all the way through than when I played.”