By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Keen ending successful run
Placeholder Image
MONROE - When Monroe girls basketball coach Kevin Keen started playing basketball in fifth grade in Brodhead, he envisioned being a coach, but he didn't know he would leave a basketball legacy that includes almost 400 career wins.

Keen, who has coached basketball in Monroe for 33 years at various boys and girls levels, announced Friday that he will retire from the school's athletic director position, and from coaching at the end of the season. He is in his 22nd year as the girls head coach and has compiled a record of 387-125.

Keen didn't want the retirement announcement to be a distraction, but according to the teachers union contract he had to make his retirement decision by March 1.

"If I could have waited until the end of the season I would have," Keen said about announcing his retirement. "I don't want to take anything away from the girls. I thought it would be better announcing it now than if I did at tournament time."

Keen informed the Cheesemakers that he would be retiring Feb. 11, the night before the game against Milton.

"It was a little emotional," he said. "I thought about retiring two years ago when we won the state championship. I thought that would be a good time to quit coaching. This year's seniors were sophomores. With the prospects of being successful the next couple of years, I decided to go for the next couple of years and see what happens."

Under his tutelage, the Cheesemakers have won 13 conference championships, qualified for the state tournament seven times and earned three state titles - including two in the past four seasons. Monroe won the gold ball in 1989, 2006 and 2008. Keen was named the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2008.

Keen has served as athletic director for 14 years and is contracted for two hours in the math department. The task of scheduling games, officials, ordering equipment, dealing with coaches, attending athletic events, finding game managers and the daily operations of the athletic department and coaching was a big-time commitment and a family affair at times. Keen's wife, Colleen has been essential.

"She has been like my assistant manager," Keen said. "She has worked basketball games and various sports when I couldn't find anyone else to take tickets. I think the hours combined coaching and with the athletic director job started to take its toll. I decided it was time to pass the torch to somebody else."

His family still sits behind the bench and cheers on the Cheesemakers at home games.

"If it wasn't for their love and support, I wouldn't have been able to do what I have done for so long," he said.

Coaching was on Keen's mind when he was at Brodhead High School.

"Basketball has been a huge part of my life ever since I started playing basketball in fifth and sixth grade in Brodhead," he said. "I knew back in high school I wanted to coach basketball."

Keen said one of the most memorable accomplishments was winning three state titles. Another special year for Keen came in 2000 when he coached his daughter Heidi (Keen) Knapp and the Cheesemakers finished as the state runner-up. He also had the chance to coach his twin daughters Heather and Holly.

"That was really neat being able to coach your own daughters," he said.

One of the biggest changes Keen has seen in basketball in almost four decades of coaching is the advent of club and AAU teams.

"You have some kids choosing to play year-round," he said. "You used to have the three sport athletes playing the sport the season they are in. Now you see a lot of kids concentrating. Whether that's good or not, I don't know. Sometimes when kids start playing at a younger age they burn out when they become a junior or senior. We haven't had that here. We have been able to maintain our success."

He is well aware that the Cheesemakers' run of success is special. If Monroe can beat Monona Grove Saturday, the Cheesemakers would clinch at least a share of their seventh-straight conference title.

"We have been extremely fortunate to have the successful sports teams we have had," Keen said. "I just thank the Lord that I was a small part of all the success that has gone on here."

Keen has told his daughter, Heidi who coaches eighth-grade basketball at Stoughton, that if she ever became a varsity head coach, he would serve as her assistant.

"I would not rule out somewhere down the road getting involved and helping out with basketball in some kind of capacity," Keen said. "I don't know if she (Heidi) will ever have that desire or not. You never know."