ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One day when he was about 10 years old, Tim Hightower spent the afternoon with his uncle, Edmund V. “Bud” Keehan, while Hightower’s mother did errands.
They went outside to shoot baskets, and Hightower had a hard time hitting shots even 5 feet away. By the time his mother returned, Hightower was standing at the top of the key – about 19 feet away – “and I wasn’t missing anything.”
Keehan, who would go on to a storied career coaching at St. Mary’s High School and Bernalillo Junior High School, died in Rio Rancho on May 31. He was 90.
He came to Albuquerque in 1951 with an already impressive athletic résumé. He was captain of his high school basketball team and an American Legion baseball player in Chicago, according to information provided by his family.
Loras College in DuBuque, Iowa, gave him a basketball scholarship, which he took for two years before being drafted by the Chicago White Sox to play pro baseball. He played for farm teams in Arkansas and New York until 1942, when he joined the Navy.
During World War II, he earned four bronze stars.
The White Sox signed him to the Tacoma Tigers after the war, which he did for a year. He returned to Chicago, then moved to Albuquerque for health reasons.
He graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1955 with an education degree, and took a job at Belen High School coaching basketball and track.
By 1960, he’d become an assistant coach in all sports for St. Mary’s High School. When the school closed seven years later, he took a job teaching science and coaching basketball, cross country and track at Bernalillo Junior High School until 1984.
That year was his last hurrah as a professional coach, when he left the junior high to lead the Bernalillo High School football team to its first winning season in many years. He officially retired from coaching after that season.
He was so dedicated to that team that he bought them new uniforms with his own money, and drove the team’s travel bus on his own, Hightower said.
Coach Keehan was an intense perfectionist, said Ron Garcia, who met Keehan when he was very young and played against Keehan’s team in junior high. Garcia is now the head boys basketball coach at Albuquerque High.
He knew so much about the mechanics of sports that he wrote 25-30 page booklets about how to shoot a basketball, said Frank Castillo, head basketball coach at La Cueva who asked Keehan to sit in on some of their practices.
Hightower said he learned a lot from his uncle, not least that “If you can tell a young person, ‘Do this,’ and they’re successful at it, they’ll gain a lot of confidence, and it’ll last them a long time.”
When money issues forced Garcia to drop out of UNM with one semester left, Keehan urged him to keep going. “I told him I didn’t have the money,” Garcia said. “He said, ‘You come to my house at 5.'”
When Garcia went, Keehan handed him an envelope of money gathered from several coaches, enough to pay for his tuition.
“That’s just the kind of guy he was,” Garcia said. “Just a good man.”
Keehan’s other passion was fishing, which, characteristically, he knew how to do perfectly. He could draw two or three fish from holes that had run dry for everyone else.
He also knew everything there was to know about growing tomatoes, Castillo said.
Keehan was a comedian, Hightower said. “He was always full of one-liners.”
He never married; instead, he spent his life caring for his mother and older sister in their home in Albuquerque.
Services were held in June.
KEEHAN: Played minor league baseballKeehan Wrote About Basketball
Edmund V. ‘Bud’ Keehan
— This article appeared on page D3 of the Albuquerque Journal