Dan Keefe – 16 Years of Confidence-Building as Coach Retires

Christopher Tremblay
Dan Keefe, retiring as coach of Holliston girls basketball, says he loved making players “believers in themselves.” Although he will miss the girls, he plans to enjoy newly found time with family, golf, and better health.
Issue Date: 
May, 2018
Article Body: 

Dan Keefe was a three-sport athlete growing up in Natick where he put a uniform on for the football team for two years, the basketball team for two years and laced up his cleats for the baseball team for three seasons. He even took part in one season of baseball for Merrimack College, but although he enjoyed participating in sports, he found that he enjoyed the coaching aspect more.
While still in high school the he began coaching in the Natick Recreation Department on a part-time basis. He would later coach freshmen baseball for the Redhawks and was a Pop Warner Coach in the town for 14 years. Coaching was something that he found that he really loved, and in 2000 he was approached by Holliston girls varsity basketball coach Kristen Hedrick.
“I had always talked about getting into coaching, and when Kristen approached me the first time, it really wasn’t a good time for me as we had a young daughter,” Keefe said. “A year later, Kristen asked me again. I brought the idea home to my wife, and she told me to go for it.”
With his wife’s blessing, Keefe’s illustrious career as a girls basketball coach for the Panthers began, but with some stipulations. Keefe told Hedrick that if he was to take the job that he couldn’t be judged by his win/loss record; he wanted to play man-to-man exclusively, and as the freshman coach he would play each and every athlete no matter what their talent level was. Hedrick quickly agreed.
“Coaching is more than wins and losses. Unfortunately, the majority of athletes that play high school sports never go onto play on the college level. It’s just a fact,” he said. “There are those naturally gifted individuals, but they are few and far between.”
He would go on to coach the Holliston freshman for five years, move onto coach the junior varsity team for another eight and followed that up with three-and-a-half years with the varsity team when Hedrick had to step down. Now 16 years later, he is stepping down himself as his commitment to basketball and his full-time job has been getting too strenuous, and his body just wasn’t having it anymore and surgeries were becoming an ongoing thing in his life.
As he entered the high school coaching ranks 16 seasons ago, not only did he find high school coaching a challenge, but never expected to be amongst the best.
“Coaching on the high school level was a totally different animal than rec coaching,” Keefe said. “I knew that I was never going to be a Bobby Knight (Indiana Coach) or Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), although I did steal his nickname (Coach K).”
Having always been intrigued by coaching, it was his compassion for the athletes he tutored that gave him the greatest pleasure on and off the court.
“I loved the X’s and O’s of coaching, and as a player I was always asking the coach ‘why we were doing this.’ I knew that I was never going to amount to being a superstar,” he said. “I love seeing the kids who are not sure of their ability, and you make them believers in themselves. I can’t give you the exact numbers, but many past athletes have come back to tell me they appreciated the way that I treated them as their coach.”
Keefe found that building trust was very important to him. In the early years, he would coach his freshman game, then help out the JC Coach with their game before finally sitting on the end of the Varsity bench to support the players.
Unfortunately, Holliston didn’t go out with a bang in the tournament this winter as it finished 11-9 during the regular season and was sent home after a first-round loss in the Division 2 Central Tournament. Now that his high school coaching career is in the books, Keefe is looking forward to his future, although he will miss the girls.
“I’ll tell you this, I will not miss the grind. Basketball begins right after Thanksgiving and goes into March, if you make the tournament; it’s a 6-day-a-week commitment,” Keefe said. “However, I will miss the girls; we’ve built a camaraderie and connection over the years. I can’t say that I ever had a bad group of girls during my 16-year run.”
Now that his basketball seasons have concluded, Keefe is looking forward to spending his extra time traveling, getting healthy, focusing on his golf game and spending time with his daughter, who will also be graduating from the University of Oregon in June. However, while the coaching aspect will be removed from his life, Keefe doesn’t dismiss the idea of returning to the bench at some point in time, but for now he’s going to enjoy his family and freedom.