Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
2 former Arkansas coaches added to Naismith Hall of Fame
Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair cuts down the net after a win over South Carolina in an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
Two coaches with Arkansas ties will be inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August, it was announced Saturday.
Gary Blair and Gene Keady are best known for their work elsewhere, but both spent transformative years with the Razorbacks' basketball teams.
Blair was the Arkansas women’s head coach from 1993-2003, and Keady was an assistant coach on Eddie Sutton’s men’s basketball staff from 1974-78. Both coached on Final Four staffs at Arkansas.
Blair, 77, coached 19 seasons at Texas A&M until his retirement in 2022. He led the Aggies to their only national championship in 2011.
Blair is the all-time wins leader at Arkansas (198) and Texas A&M (444). He led the Razorbacks to their only Final Four appearance in 1998 and coached the team to a championship in the 1999 WNIT.
He left for Texas A&M following the 2002-03 season when Arkansas did not extend his contract. The Razorbacks had made the NCAA Tournament three consecutive seasons.
Blair coached 37 seasons combined at Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas and Texas A&M, and finished his career with a record of 852-347. His teams won 9 regular-season conference championships, 9 conference tournament championships and went to the NCAA Tournament 26 times.
After a coaching stint at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, Blair got his college start as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech in 1980. He spent five seasons on the Lady Techsters’ staff and was part of three Final Four teams, including the 1982 team that won the NCAA championship. Louisiana Tech also won the AIAW national championship in 1981.
Keady, 86, was the head coach at Purdue for 25 seasons from 1980-2005 and compiled a record of 550-289. He won six Big Ten championships and took the Boilermakers to the NCAA Tournament 17 times.
Keady came to Arkansas after a successful eight-season run at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College that included a 187-51 record.
He left Sutton’s staff following the 1978 Final Four to coach Western Kentucky. He had a 38-19 record there before taking the job at Purdue following a loss in the 1980 NCAA Tournament.
The courts at Texas A&M and Purdue are named for Blair and Keady. Blair was inducted to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013 and Keady was inducted to the College Basketball Hall of Fame the same year.
Blair is the first person with ties to the Arkansas women’s program to be inducted to the Naismith Hall of Fame. Past inductees with ties to the men’s basketball program are Sutton, Nolan Richardson and Sidney Moncrief, who played for Keady.
2023 Naismith Hall of Fame Inductees
North American Committee — Dwayne Wade, player; Dirk Nowitzki, player; Tony Parker; player; Paul Gasol, player; Gene Bess, coach; David Hixon, coach; Gene Keady, coach; Gregg Popovich, coach.
Women's Committee — Becky Hammon, player; Gary Blair, coach.
Women's Veterans Direct Elect Committee — 1976 Women's Olympic Basketball team.
Direct Elect Contributor Committee — Jim Valvano, contributor
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