Frank W. Keaney ’11
Frank Keaney ’11 made his own (fast) breaks at Rhode Island State College
A fascinating, multidimensional man who made an indelible mark as a college athlete, coach and chemistry professor, Frank William Keaney is best remembered as the creator of the fast break in basketball, which he devised in the 1930s while the head coach at Rhode Island State College, now known as the University of Rhode Island.
Keaney came to Kingston, R.I., in 1920 as a chemistry professor and one-man athletic staff who coached football, basketball, baseball, track and cross country. By the late 1930s, Keaney had become one of the nation’s best known and most innovative basketball coaches. His teams, made up primarily of Rhode Islanders, were high scoring and also wildly popular with their “firehouse” style of wide open play centered around the fast break.
Keaney’s Rhode Island State team peaked in 1946 after falling to Kentucky by one point in the National Invitational Tournament finals, then recognized as the national championship, at Madison Square Garden. Between 1920 and 1948 Keaney’s Rams won 401 games while losing 124. Taking into account his wins in football and baseball, Keaney’s overall record jumps to 707 wins, 322 losses and 14 ties.
After retiring from coaching, he remained at the university as athletic director. During his tenure as AD, Keaney was honored by the university with the dedication of a new basketball gymnasium in his name. In 1960 he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Frank Keaney died Oct.. 10, 1967, and his legacy will always be remembered at URI. On top of his achievements as a coach and professor, he developed “Keaney Blue,” the school’s color. Lovingly known as “The Menty” by his players, Keaney dedicated his life to bettering student athletes on the field and in the classroom.
His family is spread around the country now from Rhode Island to California. They send their best wishes and appreciation for this honor.