Nov. 3, 2012

Sean Ryan: Remembering a Friend

Phil Stanton: Remembering Paul Keyes

Keyes succumbs to cancer


By Phil Stanton Co-Founder



VCU head coach Paul Keyes passed away on Saturday afternoon at the age of 50 after a battle with melanoma.


Keyes was forced to take a leave of absence this past April after being diagnosed with cancer. It was the second time he had fought melanoma, having battled the disease nine years ago as well.


“I got to spend some time with Paul last week and it was very special," said Chris Finwood, Old Dominion head coach and former assistant coach at VCU under Keyes. "The baseball world has lost a great coach and I have lost a great friend who I owe an awful lot to.”


Keyes led the Rams for 18 seasons, amassing a record of 603-423-1. He guided VCU to the NCAA Tournament eight times (1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010). The Rams won five Colonial Athletic Association titles and Keyes was named CAA Coach of the Year four times.


“We lost a true friend, a tremendous competitor with a passion for the game of college baseball and developing young men,” said UNC Wilmington head coach Mark Scalf. “With me Paul was always gracious in defeat and humble in victory. We developed a great respect for one another through the years of competition that went beyond the ballfield with a genuine concern for each other's families. I will miss the competition and the many conversations throughout the year. With heavy hearts, out thoughts and prayers are with Trisha and the family.”


Under the leadership of Keyes, VCU posted 12 consecutive winning seasons (1996-2007) and accumulated at least 40 wins in four of those years. The Rams set a program record with 46 wins in 1998 and tied the mark in 2003.


“Paul was a great coach, great recruiter,” said Virginia Tech head coach Pete Hughes. “Really a pioneer in recruiting and what it has become today. More importantly he was an even better husband and father. He was a true gentleman and will be missed.”


There have been eight All-Americans in recent years under Keyes: pitcher Matt Burch, shortstop Brandon Inge, pitcher/first baseman Jason Dubois, outfielder Matt Davis, third baseman Anthony Granato, pitcher Justin Orenduff, pitcher Cla Meredith and pitcher Luke Pisker.


“We have lost a college baseball coaching icon, true friend and mentor,” said VMI head coach Marlin Ikenberry. “A coach with unbelievable passion for everything he did and the utmost respect for the game. He touched many people's lives in many different ways."


A 1984 graduate of Old Dominion, Keyes earned his master’s degree in sports administration from Richmond in 1991. Keyes was an assistant coach at George Washington (1985), VCU (1986-91) and Vanderbilt (1992-94) before succeeding Tony Guzzo as head coach of the Rams in 1995.


Keyes is survived by his wife, Trisha, and children Paul Jr., MacKenzie and Kyle.


Brian O’Connor, Virginia head coach

"The college baseball community is very saddened to learn of the death of Paul Keyes. I extend my deepest sympathies to the Keyes family, the players he impacted, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Paul will be remembered for his passion for the game of baseball and his dedication to guiding his players to be the best on the field, in the classroom, and in their lives. Paul was a great ambassador for college athletics and represented his university and family with pride, class and commitment."


Tony Guzzo, former head coach at VCU and Old Dominion

“When I think of Paul, Paul is VCU baseball. When you think about what he did with VCU baseball and the success he had, I don’t know that anyone ever dreamed that was possible.”


Shawn Stiffler, VCU associate head coach

“He had an unbelievable feel for the game. He could see things before they happened…the little nuances of the game that would lead to a big difference. He was able to make in-game adjustments that ended in a winning result.


Mark McQueen, Richmond head coach and assistant for six years at VCU with Paul Keyes

“The thing I remember about Paul is that he was just so intelligent and always ahead of the game, no matter what we were doing. He was a great mentor to me, and more than that, he was a great friend. And above all else, he was a great family man.


Ryan Wheeler, Temple head coach

“Today we are saddened with the loss of one of our friends and colleagues. In this time of sorrow, I know we will all remember Paul for the positive impacts he had on so many people’s lives. He touched so many and was a great friend and mentor who will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”


Dean Ehehalt, Monmouth head coach

“There’s a great etiquette among the college baseball coaches. Paul was at the forefront of that. He was about as personable as they come. He’s one of the good ones. We lost a great ambassador, a great family man.


Joe Raccuia, Radford head coach

“Today is a very sad day for the Keyes family. Keydog was a person that always took the time to mentor and provide his insight to young coaches in the profession. His teams made a lasting impression on the CAA. RIP coach and know that you left having an influence on many of people.”


Jim Toman, Liberty head coach

“I always liked to play against VCU so I could talk with Coach Keyes before the game about college baseball. He was very very well versed in the college game and always had a lot of good ideas about the college game. One of the smartest guys out there. So sorry to hear about this. My team has prayed many times for him and his family. God bless them.”


Mike Gottlieb, Towson head coach

“Paul was one of the best coaches in the country. A real good person, too. Very honest and genuine. Those of us who know him will miss him.”


Spanky McFarland, James Madison head coach

“Coach Keyes and I had some great battles on the field over the years. His teams always played hard. Toward the end of his life, we became closer off the field as we had several discussions about our faith in Jesus Christ, our lord and savior. I would ask for his friends and colleagues to continue to pray for his family.”


Jim Sherman, Delaware head coach

“Paul was a complete good man in our business. He truly represented VCU and College Baseball in all the right ways.”


(photos courtesy of VCU Media Relations Office)