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BOYS BASKETBALL: Keener says goodbye to DCD, steps down from bench with plans to head West

By: Scott Burnstein, May 3, 2013, 10:00 pm

BEVERLY HILLS – The Guru is gone.

Legendary Birmingham Detroit Country Day boys basketball coach Kurt Keener resigned this week after 35 years on the job to move to Arizona, where he can be closer to his son, who is in college out there.

In his time on the bench, Keener, 57, turned the prestigious prep school know for academics into a state hoops superpower, winning nine state championships, most recently back in March when the Yellowjackets beat Detroit Community in the Class B state finals at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

The decision to depart surprised a lot of people in the Country Day community, especially with the core of his state-title squad returning for a chance at a repeat in 2014.

Mr. Basketball candidate Edmund Sumner, the Yellowjackets’ dynamic point guard, Maury Diane, a Division I college recruit at the off-guard spot and Michigan football-commit Maurice Ways will headline the team’s charge next winter for a second straight state crown.

Arriving at Country Day in 1978 fresh out of college, Keener coached future NBA players such as Chris Webber (Michigan), Shane Battier (Duke), Keith Benson (Oakland) and Javalle McGee (Nevada) as prepsters. Over the years he developed a sterling reputation as the “Phil Jackson of the Mitten,” making a habit of masterfully managing major talent and big egos, translating them to a crowded trophy case and close to 700 wins (678).

His first state title came in 1989 when Webber was a sophomore.

When he was a high school hoopster himself he prepped locally at Ferndale.

Just because he’s moving west doesn’t mean that Keener is putting down the whistle and clipboard. As of this summer he will assume the head-coaching reins at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, minutes away from his son, an incoming senior at Arizona State University.

Country Day alum and former Yellowjackets’ team captain Rick Palmer (Albion College) is a likely frontrunner to replace Keener. An assistant coach on two state title squads the past five years, Palmer is a Keener protégé and a well-respected presence on the AAU sidelines. During the summer, he coaches many of the current Country Day players with The Family, arguably the state’s top AAU boys cage program.