Sibling Coaches Step Down
Family Matters Sideline Kehoes
Lebanon coach Tim Kehoe huddles with the team after a win on Jan. 21, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Mascoma girls basketball coach Ed Kehoe raises his arms in victory after winning a shooting and rebounding game during practice on Jan. 15, 2008. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Two high school basketball coaches with four decades of experience, nearly 800 victories and seven state championships between them don’t willingly retreat to the sidelines at the same time without good reasons.
Ill health is one. Family obligation is another.
A month after having surgery to address a brain tumor, Hartford High girls basketball coach Ed Kehoe will take a year away from the Hurricanes as he continues treatment. His younger brother, Tim, is doing the same thing at his 22-year tenure at Lebanon High, with the plan of using the winter off to help his brother as needed.
Both Kehoes expect temporary absences. Former Sharon Academy girls basketball coach Bill Soule has agreed to take over for Ed Kehoe at Hartford this winter; the Lebanon School District began a formal search for Tim Kehoe’s substitute this week.
Ed Kehoe makes no secret that he faces a serious health challenge. But he remains optimistic in the face of a treatment schedule that includes regular radiation therapy at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center along with once-a-week trips to Boston for tests at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
“I’m feeling OK,” said Kehoe, who recently turned 50. “When they first took (the tumor) away, I had no more headaches and I’ve been much better; my condition feels a lot, lot better. Now it’s radiation. I have felt a little tired, but I feel pretty good.”
Once fully aware of his older brother’s situation, Tim Kehoe took little time to ask for a season away from the Raiders.
“I’ve always told my kids that family comes first — family, school, then basketball,” said Tim Kehoe, 47, who confirmed his plans to his Lebanon team last Friday. “This is a family situation where we want Ed to be in the best situation to win this thing.”
The Upper Valley will be with two of its most successful girls hoop coaches as a result of the brothers’ decision.
Ed Kehoe took over at Hartford last year, giving him the chance to coach his then-senior daughter, Kelsey. One year removed from the program’s first state championship, the Hurricanes went 19-4 and advanced to the Vermont Division II semifinals.
It’s been a familiar scene for the White River Junction resident. The elder Kehoe owns a 353-78 record over 19 winters, the first 15 of which were spent ringing up three NHIAA Class M championships and a six-year run of finals appearances at Mascoma High. He also guided Sunapee to a pair of Class S semifinal stops over three campaigns before coming to Hartford.
“My best shot now is exercising a little bit, having a correct diet and not stressing out,” said Kehoe, who has also relinquished the helm of the cross country program at Mascoma, where he is a teacher. “All the people I talk to (tell me) I’m high-energy and I get highly stressed out (when coaching), which I do believe. It was a long decision, but my best shot is to not go crazy with basketball, not have high blood pressure from basketball. I really love coaching, and I really love coaching my own kids.”
As recently as last week, Kehoe had hoped to have an advisory role with the Canes this year, important for him given that sophomore daughter Paige would likely be on the varsity. (The Kehoes also have two sons, fifth-grader Parker and eighth-grader Riley.) It became apparent, however, that he wouldn’t have the energy to commit to the campaign, and Kehoe asked Hartford Athletic Director Joe James to give the reins to Soule, who was scheduled to meet with the Hurricanes on Thursday.
“We wanted a varsity-caliber guy and talked to Bill,” James said this week. “We discussed what Ed does in the program so he could get a good handle on it. Ed came back and said he didn’t think he could commit to as much time as he wanted, other than cheering on the team on game nights.”
Tim Kehoe, 47, is putting aside a 423-85 resume at Lebanon to help his older brother convalesce. His Raider teams have made the state tourney in all 22 of his seasons with four state crowns, the most recent an undefeated run to NHIAA Division II honors last winter. Longtime assistant coach Rob Marsh is expected to be among the candidates applying to fill in.
Tim Kehoe is taking him time off willingly, without reservation, to assist in the same way his brother has in past circumstances. When Tim was seriously injured in a dog attack seven years ago, his older brother was there for support. When floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene damaged Tim’s Weathersfield home in 2011, Ed came to help.
“He was diving in there, right with me,” the younger Kehoe said.
The brothers are close, a relationship that has extended to the court. Growing up in Rhode Island, both played in high school and college. They constantly talk the sport. The kids one Kehoe coaches in the high school season often find the other Kehoe’s guidance during AAU play.
It just won’t happen this year.
“Basketball has been a passion of mine, but it’s not as important as my family,” Tim Kehoe said. “It makes you realize how important people are.
“Basketball is a fun activity; in the last couple of seasons, more and more it’s been brought to my mind that’s what basketball is. I possibly could get back to it, and I’m sure I will coach again. But right now all the focus is on getting my brother healthy.”
Greg Fennell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3226.