Monday, July 20, 2009

Bill 'Mr. Wildcat' Keightley Tribute

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William "Mr. Wildcat" Bond Keightley
Dec. 17, 1926 - March 31, 2008
Well, I don't know how much legacy I can leave, I know one thing, I know what a legend is. It's a man in the twilight of a very ordinary career...when I leave this Earth I think I'll have it inscribed upon my monument "To be continued..." - Bill Keightley

Bill Keightley...."Mr Wildcat" A UK Treasure!

It is a rarity for any sports program to have any individual remain with the program for decades. Coaches and staffs come and go!

However, now with UK welcoming Billy Gillispie as it's new head coach along with a new staff.....it's good to reflect on an individual in the UK basketball program that has survived and thrived through all the coaching changes.

I'm, of course, referring to Bill Keightley...the equipment manager. Bill first came aboard the UK basketball program in 1962 under the legendary coach Rupp. Since then Bill has worked under Coach Hall, Coach Sutton, Coach Pitino, Coach Smith and now Coach Gillispie. This is truly an amazing record.......45 years as equipment manager under 5 UK coaches. Now, we all know that employees don't remain this long with any organization unless thay have been outstanding. Yes, Bill Keightley has been outstanding and much more. Bill has enjoyed wonderful relationships with all the coaches and players. Certainly, Bill's title as equipment manager doesn't begin to do justice to the many wonderful contributions he has made over these many years to the UK program. One can only guess at all the wise advice and help that Bill has given to UK coaches and players over these many years!

As a UK fan, and I'm sure I speak for all UK fans, seeing Bill Keightley sitting on the UK bench gives me a sense of pride knowing all that he has meant to the UK program over these many years. Certainly, the UK program did itself proud when it honored Bill Keightley with a retired jersey in his honor in 1997. Bill, along with UK's beloved Cawood Ledford are the only non coaches or non players so honored.

I know Cat fans are all excited about next year with our new coach and staff, but Cat fans will be most happy and grateful that one individual still remains on the UK bench......"Mr Wildcat".

A sincere thanks to Bill Keightley for all he has meant to the UK programs over these many years. Bill, you are loved and respected by all UK fans.....best wishes for many more years as "Mr Wildcat"!

Sadly since I wrote this article on Bill Keightley...."Mr. Wildcat" has passed away. I had the honor of personally meeting Bill Keightley while touring the new UK practice facility last September. Bill was warm and friendly as we chatted about some of UK's past players. I had my picture taken with Bill as did many others who loved seeing Mr. Wildcat up close and personal. It was easy to see that Bill was very proud of the new UK practice facility and thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking to Big Blue fans.

As we all know, Bill never scored a point or grabbed a rebound at UK, but his influence and impact on the UK program over many decades was very significant. As we read the many comments and condolences from former coaches and players, it is clear that Bill was like a father figure....giving wisdom and support while being a great friend to all. Even in his short tenure at UK, Coach Gillispie called Bill is very good friend and is obviously very saddened, as all in the UK family, are at Bill's sudden passing. Bill Keightley was respected and loved by all who met him......he was a wonderful person.....and I am so glad that I was fortunate enough to have met him in person!

Bill Keightley was a wonderful bridge to UKs past history.....going back to Coach Rupp. Now "Mr. Wildcat" will join Coach Rupp and Cawood Ledford and cheer for the Cats from a higher bench. UK and it's fans have lost a beloved member of the UK family....we will all greatly miss "Mr. Wildcat" and all he has meant to the UK program over these many years. Our prayers and condolences go out to the Keightley family.

Written by: Lwcat WT Staff

To read more great articles and stories on Bill 'Mr. Wildcat' Keightley, just click here ..


The seat which was occupied for many years by Kentucky basketball equipment manager Bill Keightley is adorned with a blue ribbon prior to a memorial service for him Thursday at Rupp Arena. Keightley died Monday March 31, 2008.

Bill Keightley Dies - The Big Blue Nation Is Saddened
Having just completed his 48th season on the UK sidelines, the Wildcats’ record over the past four decades with Keightley as equipment manager is 1,113-351. During his tenure, he served under six UK head coaches — Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Orlando “Tubby” Smith and Billy Gillispie. Kentucky, which has fielded 105 teams, has played 2,588; meaning Keightley played a role in 57 percent of those games.

Mr. Wildcat by the numbers
  • 2: One of only two non-players or coaches to have his name hoisted into Rupp Arena rafters. The other was longtime broadcaster Cawood Ledford.
  • 3: UK NCAA titles at which Keightley sat courtside.
  • 6: Head coaches Keightley served under (Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, Billy Gillispie).
  • 8: UK trips to Final Four at which Keightley sat courtside.
  • 12: Southeastern Conference Tournament titles during his tenure.
  • 19: All-Americans who have gone through UK in Keightley’s tenure.
  • 24: Won or shared UK Southeastern Conference regular-season championships
  • 48: Seasons as equipment manager on UK bench.
  • 57: Percentage of games in the 105-year history of UK basketball in which Keightley worked.
  • 1,113: Wins he witnessed from UK bench.
Former UK coach Billy Gillispie, left, Bill Keightley and former coach Joe B. Hall were at Big Blue Madness together in the fall of 2007. Keightley embraced the new, but he was always conscious of UK's heritage as well.

Senior's Joe Crawsford, Ramel Bradley and UK Equipment Manager Bill Keightley after a 2007-08 Home game win.

Bill Keightley greeted the Wildcat mascot after UK beat Florida in its final regular-season game in March. That turned out to be the final home game of Keightley's 48-year tenure at UK.

Bill Keightley, right, stands with head coach Billy Gillispie during the playing of the national anthem before UK's first-round loss to Marquette in the NCAA Tournament. It was Keightley's last game of his 48-year UK career.

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