Despite his distant relation to notorious hockey coach Mike Keenan, you won’t likely catch Edmonton Rush skipper Derek Keenan screaming at his stars or throwing a tantrum behind the bench.
“I think I have a pretty good rapport with most of my guys. It’s something that we work at,” Keenan said. “There’s a time and a place to be a little harder on them when you have to be, but for the most part, these guys are professionals and I think we have great leadership, so I don’t need to be that way with these guys.”
Whatever he’s doing, it seems to be working.
In his first campaign with the Rush, Keenan has guided the club to its first appearance in the NLL playoffs.
After settling for the third seed in the West Division, the Rush (10-6) will face the Calgary Roughnecks (10-6) in Saturday’s first-round showdown at the Saddledome (1 p.m., nll.com).
In fact, Keenan will be patrolling the same bench where his second cousin, Mike, gave orders to the Flames for two seasons and where his brother-in-law, Joe Nieuwendyk, starred as a player for eight campaigns.
While serving as an assistant coach in Toronto, Keenan helped lead the Rock to four consecutive Champions’ Cup berths, including victories in 2000, 2002 and 2003.
Keenan had the Anaheim Storm headed in the right direction before the club folded, then won the NLL’s Les Bartley Award as coach of the year after leading the expansion Portland LumberJax to a division title in 2006. Now, he’s guided the Rush into uncharted territory.
Even after four straight early exits, though, he insists nobody in the Rush organization was celebrating when the team clinched a post-season berth.
“We’ve done some really good things, l but we’re really not even close to being satisfied,” Keenan said. “We have goals still. The regular season is over, so now the goals change and they become higher. We’re about two-thirds of the way up the mountain and it’s kind of one step at a time now.
“The guys aren’t satisfied, either. They believe we can do this, so there’s no reason for euphoria or to be overzealous about what we’ve done to date.”