Keenan nets NLL awards

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

Derek Keenan is used to blazing a path into unfamiliar territory and on Tuesday he nailed down a rare double double.

For his efforts in guiding the Edmonton Rush to within one goal of making the National Lacrosse League final, Keenan earned the GM of the year award Tuesday and was also named the co-winner of coach of the year honours, along with Chris Hall of the Washington Stealth.

Keenan became the first man in NLL history to win dual honours in 2006 when he took over the Portland franchise, and on Tuesday became the first man in history to win both awards two times.

Bob Hamley, the man he replaced, is the only other man in NLL history to do the double, back in 2005. Understandably, Keenan greeted the news with mixed emotions.

"I'd trade it for a shot at the title," said Keenan, whose team dropped a heartbreaking 12-11 overtime loss to the Stealth Saturday in Seattle.

"Maybe it's a bit of a consolation. It's definitely an honour. An award like this is more a reflection of the way the team played and it's unfortunate only one guy gets it.

"Everybody played a role in the type of season we had -- the team leaders, the assistant coaching staff, the front office, the owner. All were very supportive of what we accomplished."

Keenan was given the dual task of rebuilding a team that had never made it into the playoffs into a contender.

"Maybe that (previous double) was part of the reason for Bruce (owner Urban) to hire me this year," said Keenan.

He made the moves to bolster the lineup through off-season acquisitions, but generally managing proved to be the easy part of the rebuilding process.

"Coaching is tougher," said Keenan. "From a coaching perspective, we brought in 14 new guys, an all-new coaching staff and had to figure out how they could all play together. Of course, you have to have the right players."

Being able to land a player of Brodie Merrill's calibre didn't hurt.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's the league MVP," said Keenan. "If you take him away from the lineup, I don't think we could have been 10-6, in fact I know it. I didn't come to Edmonton with an empty shelf. There were good players here already.

"We just had to figure out what to do with them."

The type of season the Rush had bodes well for the future and will help Keenan attract more players to Edmonton.

"I don't think it was a question that we had trouble attracting players," said Keenan. "We had a good organization already. The players we have love playing here. Now that we have a strong, competitive team, we can continue to grow it."

Even though the season came to a disappointing end, the team's razor-thin loss showed how far the Rush has come and there's no question it will provide some motivation for the 2011 season.

"It would have been good if we'd been able to play another week," said Keenan, a distant relative of the NHL's Iron Mike Keenan. "It could help give us something to shoot for in the future."


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