McKeown eyes open spot

Among the names swirling around the vacant head coaching position for the GW men’s basketball team is Joe McKeown, head coach of the women’s basketball team. McKeown said Saturday that, while it is unlikely, he would consider coaching the men’s team after Tom Penders resigned the day before.

“I respect Tom (Penders) and, given his circumstances, it’s still very fresh,” McKeown said. “But I would have to sit down with (Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz) and (Vice President of Student Academic and Support Services Robert Chernak) and explore how strong they want me and what options there are.”

As of Friday, McKeown said the University had not contacted him about the job. But he said he has received a flood of phone calls from national media and friends who read an April 21 Washington Post article that named McKeown as a possible replacement.

“I’m flattered the University would be interested in having me as a candidate. I appreciate the respect they’ve shown me,” McKeown said. “You know, part of me wants to listen to any opportunity that would improve my family and my career. On the flip side, I’m very loyal to my players and our program. I feel strong pull towards them.”

McKeown said if he took on the position, he’d run the men’s program like boot camp.

“I’d have them get up at 5 a.m., and run around the Reflecting Pool a couple times,” McKeown said.

The coach has a reputation for running an orderly program. In his 12-year career that includes nine NCAA appearances, McKeown said all of his players have graduated. He said his players acknowledge their status as student-athletes and do not miss class. Freshman and sophomore players have mandatory study hours.

This is not the first time McKeown’s name has surfaced for a publicized coaching position. He has twice interviewed for the head coaching job for the Women’s National Basketball Association’s New York Liberty.

The first time came after McKeown led the Colonial women to the NCAA’s Elite Eight in 1996. The Liberty offered McKeown the position in 1997, the league’s first year, but he turned it down. McKeown said Red Auerbach, former Boston Celtics head coach and GW supporter, told him it would hurt his career to take the job because the first coach of any new league is bound to take the fall when the league sours.

The Washington Mystics contacted McKeown about an open head-coaching position in 1999, McKeown said. But McKeown chose to stay with the Colonials.

McKeown began coaching the GW women’s team in 1989. He inherited a 9-19 program and brought the team to the Atlantic 10 title game and into the NCAA Tournament by his second season. McKeown led the women to the Sweet Sixteen in 1995 and to the Elite Eight in 1998.

McKeown has never coached men’s basketball at the collegiate level.
When asked if his lack of experience with men’s basketball would affect his decision on any offers, the coach said, “Basketball is basketball.”

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