Keating leaves post at UCLA for Santa Clara

Updated: April 10, 2007, 10:50 AM ET
Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Kerry Keating wasn't going to leave UCLA for just any head coaching job. For him, the circumstances had to be the right fit.

Keating found it at Santa Clara after dining with university president Paul Locatelli last week.

Keating, who was formally introduced as head coach at Santa Clara on Monday, acknowledged being torn about leaving the Bruins to replace Dick Davey, the Broncos' legendary coach who retired at the end of this past season following a 15-year career at the university.

"It was going to take something very special to get me to leave something I had worked so hard for at UCLA," Keating said during a 45-minute speech to boosters and media. "This had to be better than that for me personally to leave."

Keating, who at 35 is the youngest head coach in the West Coast Conference, served as assistant and top recruiter at UCLA for four seasons, including the Bruins' back-to-back runs to the Final Four in 2006-07. UCLA posted a 91-41 record during his tenure.

Leaving the Bruins and good friend Ben Howland, UCLA's head coach, wasn't something Keating expected to do. He wasn't convinced he would until meeting with Locatelli for dinner last Wednesday.

"I didn't even have a chance to take a bite of the salad yet and Father Locatelli said, 'You coming? Because we're ready to get this thing done."' Keating recalled. "That excited me, and it really resonated with me when I did go home and sleep on it. To know that the people ahead of you share the same type of competitive spirit is really important to me because that is what drives me every day."

Keating becomes the 14th head coach for the Broncos in the team's 100-year history, and only the fifth head coach since Bob Feerick led the program in 1950.

Davey, the WCC coach of the year, led the Broncos to three straight WCC championships in the mid-1990s and a 251-190 overall record in 15 seasons. He served as assistant coach for 15 years before taking the head coaching job, where he became known for his personable style and argyle sweaters.

Keating got his start as a student assistant coach at Seton Hall in 1993. He worked in various assistant positions at Wake Forest, Appalachian State, Vanderbilt, Tulsa and Tennessee before joining UCLA.

With the Bruins, he was responsible for recruiting most of the players who helped form the heart of UCLA's deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.

"Kerry embodies so much of what we were looking for in a new head coach," said Dan Coonan, Santa Clara's athletic director. "His reputation as a recruiter doesn't do justice to what the reality is. We were looking for someone who is a lights-out recruiter who did it the right way, and that's absolutely what we found.

"Five minutes into the interview, I wanted to hire him," he added. "Ten minutes into the interview, I wanted to play for him. Rest assured, he'll recruit better athletes than me."

Keating promised to have the Broncos playing defense similar to the up-tempo, physical man-to-man style favored by Howland and UCLA.

"I'd be a fool not to take from the strong," Keating said. "[Howland's] attention to detail is legendary and will help us here. [Defense] is going to be the basis of how we play."

Keating also named Sam Scuilli, Lamont Smith and Sam Scholl as assistants. Sciulli was an assistant under Davey for the past seven seasons.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press