UK#8217;s Keightley dead at age of 81

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky basketball manager Bill Keightley, who was with the Wildcats for 48 seasons, died Monday in Cincinnati. He was 81.

Keightley died of internal bleeding caused by a previously undiagnosed tumor on his spine, the university said in a statement. He was on a trip to see the Reds’ season-opener and suffered a fall, Kentucky spokesman Scott Stricklin told The Associated Press. He was taken to University Hospital, where he died.

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Stricklin said doctors believe the fall was probably due to bleeding.

Keightley’s tenure reached back to the Adolph Rupp era and continued through Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and current Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie.

‘‘For many Kentuckians, and, indeed, for much of the country, Bill Keightley was not only the face of UK Wildcat basketball, but the University of Kentucky itself,’’ university President Lee Todd said in a statement. ‘‘An entire state tonight — from Paducah to Pikeville — is mourning his passing and, I’m sure, remembering his family in prayer along with Patsy and me.’’

Kentucky honored Keightley in 1997 with a retired jersey in his honor, one of only two people who did not play or coach to be honored that way. The other was broadcaster Cawood Ledford.

Keightley began his career as an assistant to the equipment manager in 1961-62. He took over as head manager in 1972.

Keightley is survived by his wife, Hazel, and daughter, Karen.