Season Preview: CHD sits down with Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating

To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around.  Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating about winning two postseason titles over the past three years. 


You lost your top two scorers from last year in Kevin Foster and Marc Trasolini. How will you be able to fill the offensive void left by the departure of these two seniors? By playing better defense! I am not naive enough to think that we can easily replace them. Marc was a great all-around player and Kevin scored well over 2,000 points for us. We just have to see who has the ability to put the ball in the basket and hopefully we can create some offense off of our defense.

Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Notre Dame and UNLV. Which of these two games do you feel will present your biggest test? The first one of the year, and it is not just a cliché. I do not even remember who we are playing, but I know it is on November 8th. For our own internal purposes we have to go out and win the 1st game and then move onto the next one and take them one game at a time. If anyone on our team talks about a game in the past or in the future you have to drop and do 10 pushups. It is a running joke, but it keeps people in shape!

What are your expectations for the upcoming season? I just want to make sure we are getting better. We have a relatively young team but want to keep things at a high level. We cannot take any steps backward and we have to prepare to handle success in the future.

In the 1992 NCAA tourney, as a student assistant under head coach PJ Carlesimo at Seton Hall, Terry Dehere scored 24 points, including an 18-foot jumper with 1.8 seconds left in a two point win over La Salle. Where does that rank among the most clutch shots you have ever seen? I need to go back and watch that sometime. I believe it was in Greensboro. I know that Terry was a heck of a player. He was a killer and had an unbelievable will to win. I think he graduated as the all-time leading scorer in Big East history, and his competitiveness was legendary.

Christian Laettner scored 16 points in a win by defending and eventual champion Duke. Where does that Blue Devil team rank among the best you have ever seen? That was the game before Laettner’s miracle shot to beat Kentucky, which is probably the biggest clutch shot in tourney history. We felt that we could have won and would have loved to play them again in 1993, but we ended up playing UNLV. I am fortunate to have come up the ranks in the past two decades with a bunch of amazing coaches like Coach K and Jerry Tarkanian who have showed me what it takes to win.

In the 1999 SoCon tourney, as an assistant coach under Buzz Peterson at Appalachian State, Cedrick Holmes had 20 points and 11 rebounds in a three point double overtime win over Chattanooga. Where does that rank among the most exciting games of your career? What was even more exciting was our semifinal game against Furman when Tyson Patterson just took over the game. We were in a bad hole and Tyson had a mini-run of his own and put the team on his back. It showed me what a senior can do for his team. That was our 1st foray into watching our name get called on TV during Selection Sunday from a smaller conference. I still have a piece of the net from the title game hanging on our wall.

In the 2001 NIT. in your only year as an assistant under Peterson at Tulsa, you won four games by single-digits before a 19 point win over Alabama in the title game. How were you able to come in and be so successful so quickly? We were only there for 243 days after Bill Self moved on to Illinois late in the spring. We won 26 games but missed out on the NCAA tourney after losing on our home floor. I distinctly remember us in the preseason saying that we had to simplify things because we got a late start on preseason practice. We would have lost to Irvine if we were not playing at home. The crowd helped us pull that one out. We thrashed Alabama by 19. To be back in the Garden where I had grown up watching Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing was great for me personally. That also helped establish me as a recruiter because I was able to start recruiting California kids.

In the 2006 NCAA tourney, as an assistant under Ben Howland at UCLA, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had 14 points and 10 rebounds in a two point win over Gonzaga. How were you able to come back from a nine point deficit with three minutes left? I have no idea! We got some breaks and things just fell into place: I still watch that game once in awhile for “chill” purposes. I looked up at my parents in the crowd after the game and asked them “what just happened?”, even though they could not hear me. We ran the tar out of LSU in the semis. It was surreal to be at the Final Four with everyone watching us on the court.

You lost to Billy Donovan’s back-to-back champion Florida team in the 2006 title game and the 2007 semifinals. Were you getting tired of seeing another coach from Rockville Centre in the Final Four every year? I spent some time this summer with Billy at his clinic. We actually grew up on opposite ends of the same street (Harvard Ave.) I always admired him as a player and he has given us a lot of hometown pride. I am fortunate to have him as a friend who I can call on.

In 2007, you were named head coach at Santa Clara. How did it feel to get the job after spending over 25 years as an assistant? It was awesome! It was somewhat of a dream come true to be in a leadership position. My goal is to share the experience with our players and coaches. We are building this for the long haul. We have overcome a lot of challenges and hopefully we can continue to get great kids to come here and take advantage of an unbelievable opportunity. The Bay Area and Silicon Valley has just exploded over the past decade. The 49ers, Golden State, the A’s, as well as some of the biggest companies in the world. The next challenge is to bring in a talented player who nobody thinks we would be able to get. We had Paul George committed to us for a hot minute and were close on Damian Lillard as well. People gravitate towards Steph Curry, Buster Posey and Colin Kaepernick. That should happen at our level with somebody. The Northern California area did not have guys like Aaron Gordon a decade ago, but the coaches up here have done a great job of developing good players while the population has increased. The old saying is that athletes wanted to be rappers, but now they want to develop an app! Our admissions are at an all-time high and I want to take that number and quadruple it.

In the 2011 CIT title game, you had a seven point win over Iona and in the 2013 CBI title game you had a three point win over George Mason. What is the secret to winning games in the postseason? Scoring more points! We averaged 80 PPG in the CBI and did a great job defensively against Iona. Once the trust factor develops you can just go out and play, and you also have to embrace the moment. When we traveled for the CIT and CBI, we tried to take advantage by seeing the sights and enjoying the cities we were visiting. I joke that we lost a game to George Mason because we were busy visiting the monuments in DC! We did not just want to be in the postseason: we wanted to win it all.