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Remembering Mr. Wildcat

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UPDATED, more photos: Bill Keightley, the longtime equipment manager for University of Kentucky basketball teams, died March 31, 2008. John Clay asks how UK should honor Keightley, and Billy Gillispie reflects on Mr. Wildcat’s life. Also, check out recordings of interviews with Keightley about UK hoops history.

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23 Responses to “Remembering Mr. Wildcat”
  1. Tretter says:

    Mr. Wildcat… you will be missed by all. RIP

  2. Reggie Warford says:

    Moments ago I received a call from a dear friend in Lexington informing me of the untimely death of Mr. BIll Keightly. I am shocked and saddended to hear of the horrible news. As eveyone in Kentucky knows, there was no greater friend to UK and its players, coaches, trainers than Mr. Keightly.

    He was a great friends to all but for me he was pariculariy important. He was always there with kind words of encouragement, and on occassion a kick in the butt if you needed, and believe me there were times when we needed it.

    He gave advice with love tempered with wisdon. He always kept perspective on what it meant to be a Kentucky basketball player. In his own way, he made every player fill like the star they desired to be.

    Mr. Keightly’s presence will be sorely missed, but his spirit and memory will continue with us…. the players, coaches and UK fans and family that loved Bill Keightly. My family and I send our sincere condolences to Ms. Hazel and Karen.

    God Bless and God Speed to Bill Keightly and his journey home.
    With Love,
    Reggie Warford “76″

  3. from Jefferson County says:

    Mr. Bill, you were Kentucky Basketball. Others came and went. You lived and died Kentucky. You were not a player or a coach. You were one of us. You understood what Kentucky meant to us because thats what it meant to you. We loved your emotion and passion. We love you. We will miss you. The Kentucky bench will never be the same. Tell Cawood one thing for me. Hello from everybody! Rest in Peace Mr. Bill.

  4. Monte Darland says:

    A shock to me when I heard. I’m very glad I got to meet and talk to him. He was a super guy and full of stories. I’m proud to say that I have a picture of him and I with him signing a basketball for my son. A sad day in the world of Kentucky Basketball.

  5. Penny ( FLA ) says:

    Mr. Wildcat, You will be missed more than you could ever IMAGINE ! The bench will never be the same, your face was one ‘we’ could always count on being there. DEEPEST SYMPATHY to your family, UK Staff & players ( past & present ) hopefully the coaches / players that knew you will SHARE with the ones that are to come, just what it was like to have you in their life on the court & off. PS. Tell Cawood we said hello , I am sure you two have already spoken about basketball non the less..haha R.I.P.

  6. A Wildcat Fan From Louisville, KY says:

    Mr. Bill, You are Kentucky Basketball, My deepest sympathies to your wife and family. R.I.P.

  7. Ryan Adams says:

    I came to know Bill Keightley while working at Lexington Center/Rupp Arena for 7 years starting in the mid 1990’s-2003. He was truly a man among men and was one of the reasons that my time working in what is among the greatest buildings in the world with the greatest baskertball program in the hsitory of the game will forever be remembered. Bill Keightley never met a stranger and made everyone around him feel important. Many others feel the same as I do; Bill Keightley shall never be replaced.

    Ryan Adams
    Whitesburg, KY

  8. MR.Keightley you wil be missed. You are a symbol of kentucky basketball and all of sports, You have insprired so many people and more to come and when the cats win it all it will be for you Bill Keightley.

  9. Lisa says:

    You truly were and are what the definition of a Ky Wildcat fan is. Rest now in the loving arms of God

  10. Earl Kennedy, Atlanta, GA says:

    I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Keightley in person, but I feel like I lost a dear, close, and true friend. There was always something comforting about seeing his smiling face on the bench, whether the game was going well or not. My condolences to the Keightley family and to his extended family, the Big Blue Nation. You will be missed. Thank you for being a representative of everything that is good, not just UK basketball, but life in general.

  11. BILL PHARIS says:


  12. Amber says:

    Bill, you truly were a symbol of Kentucky Basketball. You have been there to share so much of the rich tradition that is synonymous with the name Kentucky. With each story that is told and each memory shared it becomes evident that you are so much more than a symbol for Kentucky Basketball, but rather a symbol of humanity. You represent a smiling face, a gentle touch, a kind word, a lending hand, a listening ear, a warm heart, and a genuine spirit. You were a mentor, a friend, a confidant , and a fan. You are a legend on the bench but more than that you are a legendary man.

  13. Gary Bridgewater says:

    Say it ain’t so!! I have never seen a game without “Mr. Wildcat” on the bench. I am not sure how it will feel next November watching the Cats. I know for sure ,if there wasn’t a Big Blue Fan Club in heaven…..there is now. We will MISS you Bill, but never FORGET you.

    Gary Bridgewater
    Conyers GA

  14. Debbie Demrow says:

    Mr. Keightley was our guest speaker at our Chamber Banquet a couple of years ago, and it was a special night. He was so full of excitement that you could feel it in the room before he said a word. Some of his ’stories’ were so funny, that even the ‘high society’ people were laughing outloud. I also got to meet him when a group of us got a private tour of the basketball museum, Rupp Arena, and the locker rooms, etc. We had a reception after the tour and Bill was there to share ‘Wildcat’ Stories with all of us. He even had Tubby laughing so hard that he was almost crying. He was one of a kind-a rare gem-and there will never be another like Mr. Wildcat. I agree that he is in heaven and he is proudly displaying his true ‘blue’ colors. Our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.

  15. Greg Bell says:

    So many memories came rushing back when I heard the passing of Mr.Wildcat Bill Keightly. A true Kentucky gentleman, God Bless you Bill and your family.

    Thanks for what you have done for Kentucky Basketball.

    Greg Bell
    Owensboro, Ky

  16. Angie (Hart) Hager says:

    Mr. Keightly was ALWAYS there. For the coaches, the players, anybody around him. You could see it in the way you looked at him on the bench. His seat, his bench, his team…..that chair should never be filled with anybody….not even the next equipment manager, ESPECIALLY the next equipment manager (nothing against him, of course). I was raised with blue blood coursing in my veins. As a kid, my Daddy had tickets in Memorial Coliseum. I was a little girl and I remember Mr. Keightly, Mr. Wildcat. Blue thru and thru. When Daddy got tickets in Rupp, there he was, Mr. Wildcat. He loved his boys: staff, players, coaches, etc. And if there were girls on as part of his staff, they were “his boys” too. And you could tell that’s what of gentleman he was.

    I worked with his wife years ago. She was in Housing in the Funkhouser Building and I was in Undergraduate Admissions in the same bldg. She was the nicest, most genteel woman that I had ever met. Don’t have a clue where she was from but reminded me of a Southern Belle way back when. My condolences to her and the rest of her family, the extended family: his players (all years), his staff (all years), his coaches (all years). Mr. Keightly always a pleasure to watch you and you taking care of all your teams. Tell Mr. Ledford that an old fan says hello. I’m 46 years old but I have seen those two since I was knee high to a grasshopper.
    Mrs. Hazel and Family, my condolences to you and your blood family. I hope God has a basket ball team up there because Mr. Ledford has been waiting for you to get things going.
    A bleeding and crying blue fan for all of Kentucky, and Big Blue Nation, and the University of Kentucky.
    Sincerely, Angie “Hart” Hager
    1981 Alum of UK and long time UK basketball fan.

  17. Ed Cunningham says:

    As a UK grad living in Northeast Ohio I had to get my basketball fix by finding an AM station that carried the Cats games. Many times I sat in my car and listened to Cawood announce the games. My friends and family thought I was crazy, but they didn’t understand the passion that runs in the blood of a UK fan. I also have some real Kentucky blood as my mother is from Lee County. On those times when the games were televised in our area I always looked to see Mr. Keightly on the bench, supporting “his team”. I am truly saddened by his passing. As a student, I was blessed to have attended and experienced Kentucky basketball games with Mr. Keightly, Cawood Ledford, Coach Rupp and Colonel Sanders.
    God bless, they are all together again.

    Ed Cunningham Alum 71,73.

  18. Steve Goff UK Class of 1986 says:

    God bless the Keightly family and the Big Blue nation as well during our time of sorrow. How we all love Mr. Keightly who always spoke in public how he loved the lord and his UK Wildcats. His inner joy was demonstrated by his constant smile, love and affection he showed to everyone he came into contact with. What a wonderful life mentor he was to the coaches and players. Let his standards live forever and let us never fail to try and obtain them. He loved us too remember that.

  19. The big blue nation will certainly miss Mr. Wildcat. I am a UK fan and a friend of Mr. Wildcat.– and have been his fan since the 1930s when we both attended
    Bonds Mill School and Kavanaugh High School I graduated in1943 and I believe Mr. Wildcat graduated in 1944. He was the center player on the Tiger basket ball team of Kavanaugh High School. The last time I saw Bill was when he was
    an honorary pall bearer at the funeral of my brother, Junior Waterffill who was
    a very good friend of Bill. and who died in 1997.

    God bless Hazel and Karen Keightley in your loss — truly we have all have all suffered a great loss when God called him home.

  20. Edward Penn says:

    I just returned home from attending the memorial service for Mr. Bill Keightley at Rupp Arena. So many good things were said about Mr. Keightley during the service by those who have known well him over the years. I’m certain the anecdotes could go on ad infinitum. However, I’ll add one more to the list.

    While accompanying one of my close friends to hallowed Memorial Coliseum one afternoon late last summer, I happened to run into Mr. Keightley quite by accident. My friend and I were taken off-guard and, frankly, at a complete loss for words when we suddenly encountered him working in the narrow hallway in the lower level of the arena. We were two middle-aged star-struck men! At any rate, we were able somehow to ask him for directions to the ticket office to pick up my friend’s season football tickets. Of course, neither of us could let the moment pass without asking him about the upcoming basketball season. I asked, “How many games will we win this year, Mr. Keightley? Replied Mr. Keightley, “All of ‘em, son…all of ‘em. Isn’t that the only answer?” My friend and I smiled and walked away, content in the knowledge that we’d met one of our heroes and we had a story to tell others that would get even better with time.

    We’ll keep winning them alright, Mr. Keightley – maybe not all of them, but enough of them. Thank you for being the perfect ambassador for UK basketball. We’ll miss you, sir.

  21. Allen,TRENTON says:

    Bill Kightly was A great man. He done good things to the univarsity it supported
    the schhol.I wish he could see gilespie win us a championchip next year.Even though I dont now him that much because im 11 ive nown him good enough
    to support him thats all i can say we will all miss him.


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