Raps add bench assistance

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell received an early Christmas present with the official signing yesterday of legendary college coach Gene Keady.

The former Purdue coach, who retired in March after 25 years with the Boilermakers, becomes an assistant coach and will join the Raptors for tonight's game in Charlotte.

Keady earned U.S. coach-of-the-year honours six times (second-most by any coach) and Big Ten coach of the year a record seven times. He coached Purdue to six Big Ten championships.

The hiring of Keady was the worst-kept secret in Raptorland, but Mitchell admitted this week that he had been pushing the organization for more help. Toronto is one of the few teams in the NBA that has carried only three assistant coaches. Some teams have five, many have four, and Mitchell admitted he has often felt shorthanded.

"I always felt like we needed to add another coach, and an experienced coach," Mitchell said. "That's why we want someone of coach Keady's stature. We have a very small staff and it's a lot of work, and you're talking about young players. That's a lot of individual time. It spreads you kind of thin."

The hiring of Keady should be a good match in Toronto, Mitchell believes, given the fact that he spent his career working with college players and the Raptors have a half dozen players on the roster who are only a year or two out of NCAA action.

"Who better to add to your staff than a guy who coached college basketball for 40-something years?" Mitchell said. "I just think it will add to our knowledge. Not to say that he's going to see anything that we don't see. It's just that when you bring that kind of experience and teaching, it's valuable.

"The only thing that scares me, we may be too alike," the coach added, with laugh.


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