Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends" Series: Stanford Great Adam Keefe

April 20th, 2011

In the latest installment in his "Forgotten Legends" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Stanford great Adam Keefe. In four seasons on The Farm, Keefe was an All-American three times and left school as the program's all-time leading rebounder and ranks second all-time in points scored. Keefe is now the executive vice president at CSI Capital Management.  

Jon Teitel: You scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead your Woodbridge High team to a win over DeAnza for the 1987 CIF Division II state title, and the following year you were named the Cal-Hi Sports Boys Athlete of the Year (previous winners include Jackie Robinson, Mark Spitz and John Elway). What did it mean to you to win the title, and how does it feel to be in such an exclusive club?

Adam Keefe: Winning the state title was fantastic. It was especially fun because most of my teammates and I had known each other since we were 10 years old. The Cal-Hi Sports thing was a bit underwhelming, as there was no award presentation, but I was excited when I found out who else had won it before.

JT: You played for Coach Mike Montgomery at Stanford. What made Coach Montgomery such a great coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him?

AK: What makes him such a great coach is his ability to evaluate talent in individuals and then put people in situations to be successful on the court. I have seen tons of guys who I call "system coaches" who just put players into their system, but Montgomery's offense could change from year to year based on the players he had. He can figure out what people are best at. When I came to Stanford as a freshman and Todd Lichti was the star, the offense would run through him as a guard. By the time I was a senior, the offense would run through me as a forward.

JT: You also played middle blocker on the Stanford volleyball team. How were you able to balance basketball and volleyball, and which sport did you enjoy more?

AK: It was difficult but not impossible to balance the two sports. Stanford probably has more multi-sport athletes than any other school. For example, Toby Gerhart played baseball while also being a Heisman Trophy runner-up. I enjoyed both sports. I was better at basketball, but I probably had more upside in volleyball.

JT: What are your memories of the 1989 NCAA Tournament (Keefe scored 22 points in 26 minutes but Marc Brown made 2 free throws with three seconds left in a two-point upset win by #14-seed Siena)?

AK: As a freshman I was distant from how big a deal it was: I just assumed we would go to the tourney every year. I remember Brown making everything he tossed up, so I just tried to rebound.

1991 Postseason NIT

JT: You scored 12 points in a six-point win over Oklahoma to the win the school's 1st basketball title in 49 years after Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs became the first coach to ever be ejected from an NIT game. What impact did Tubbs' ejection have on the game (if any), and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus?

AK: I do not remember Tubbs' ejection having any impact on the game. I was in a street fight down in the post, as I scored several points below my season average. We came back to campus and had a big rally, so it was fun to see the momentum building for the basketball program.

JT: You were named NIT MVP. What did it mean to you to win such an outstanding individual honor?

AK: It was great...although I would have preferred to win the same award at the Final Four!! They did not base it on my performance in the final game; it simply reflected how well our team was playing at the time.

JT: In the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana you lost to Puerto Rico in the semifinals before beating Cuba for the bronze medal. How did you feel about winning a bronze medal, and which of your teammates impressed you the most (Grant Hill, Jimmy Jackson, Christian Laettner or another player)?

AK: It was great to beat Cuba on their home turf, although our goal was to play for the gold medal. There were so many great players on our team and each was unique. Grant Hill's athleticism was at another level, and Laettner's all-around game as a big man was unbelievable. The one who most people do not think of is Tony Bennett. He clearly had an understanding of the game that was unique among his peers.

JT: What are your memories of the 1992 NCAA Tournament (Keefe scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a five-point loss to Alabama)?

AK: We played pretty well, but Alabama had a lot of guys like Robert Horry and Latrell Sprewell whose talent was not fully realized until after they got to the NBA.

JT: You are one of four players in NCAA history with 2,000 PTS, 1,000 REB and a field goal percentage of 60% or higher (Lew Alcindor, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson are the others). Do you consider yourself to be one of the best big men in NCAA history?

AK: I was made aware of that stat not too long ago, and it is a huge source of pride for me as the only non-seven footer to do it. My graduating class included big men like Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O'Neal, so it is easier for me to say that I played fully to my potential.

JT: In the summer of 1992 you were drafted 10th overall by Atlanta (one spot ahead of Horry). Did you see that as a validation of your college career or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA?

AK: Part of it was a validation of the hard work I put in and the time I spent working that people did not see (on the track, in the weight room, etc.). It was a great honor, as it is a select group of players who make it to the NBA.

JT: In your 1993 home finale you scored a career-high 30 points (12-13 FG) in a win over Milwaukee. Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone"?

AK: It was less of a zone, and more one of those nights where the ball broke my way every single time. I did not make any extraordinary shots, but every single time the ball could come my way it did. I hit some jump hooks, got some offensive rebounds, and made all of my free throws.

1997 NBA Finals

JT: Michael Jordan made a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer to win Game 1. Where does Jordan rank among the most clutch players you have even seen, and did you just expect him to make it?

AK: In the heat of the battle you are just focused on what your team is trying to accomplish, so I do not think that any of my teammates were thinking about whether Jordan would take/make that shot. Jordan is a tremendous player, but I hesitate to call him "clutch" because that infers that there are times when he is not making shots! He was the absolute best at understanding the fundamentals of the game and using his amazing athletic ability.

JT: Jordan scored 38 points in 44 minutes to lead his team to a win in Game 5 before collapsing into Scottie Pippen's arms (the infamous "Flu Game"). Could you tell at the time how sick Jordan was that night, and where does that rank among the gutsiest performances you have ever seen?

AK: We could not tell how sick he was, but frankly we did not care because we were just trying to win the game and stay alive.

JT: In Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals you had a one-point home loss to Chicago after Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone and made a 20-foot jumper over Bryon Russell to win the series. What made Jordan so amazing, and do you think that he pushed off to get free for the series-winning shot?

AK: I have seen the video a bunch of times: it is hard to say, but I do not think any refs would call a foul in that situation. There were probably only a couple of times that year when Karl got stripped in the post, so for Jordan to do that shows what a great player he truly was.

JT: Your wife Kristin was the 1991 national college volleyball Player of the Year and a member of the 1996 US Olympic volleyball team (her dad Bob was an NFL tight end for 10 years). Who is the best athlete in the family, and how athletic are your kids?

AK: I was never NCAA Player of the Year or All-American as a freshman, so I will give her the nod. However, I think I would have had a good shot at making the 1992 Olympic team if the "Dream Team" had not been formed that year. Our kids are tall and move their feet well, but only time will tell if they can become great athletes.

JT: You had a cameo in the 1980s skateboarding movie "Gleaming the Cube" starring Christian Slater, part of which was shot at your high school. How did you get into the movie, and were you ever a skateboarder while growing up?

AK: I was never a skateboarder, and I was only an extra because the movie was filmed at our high school.

JT: You currently work for CSI Capital Management. How do you like the job, and what do you hope to do in the future?

AK: I have been here since I got done playing, and I like it a lot. I see myself continuing as executive VP and helping people to invest their money wisely.

Keefe is also on Jon's list of best fantasy players in Pac-10 history.

Arizona: Sean Elliott (1989) 2555 PTS (#1), 42.8 3P% (#3), 2-time All-American, 2-time conference POY, national POY
Arizona State: Eddie House (2000) 2044 PTS (#1), 258 STL (#1), 250 3PM (#3), All-American, conference POY
California: Jerome Randle (2010) 1849 PTS (#1), 526 AST (#2), 255 3PM (#1), 88.2 FT% (#1), All-American, conference POY
Oregon: Ron Lee (1976) 2085 PTS (#1), 572 AST (#2), 3-time All-American, conference POY, NIT MVP
Oregon State: Gary Payton (1990) 2172 PTS (#1), 938 AST (#1), 321 STL (#1), 178 3PM (#2), All-American
Stanford: Adam Keefe (1992) 2319 PTS (#2), 1119 REB (#1), 141 STL (#4), 60 FG% (#2), 3-time All-American, NIT MVP
UCLA: Lew Alcindor (1969) 2325 PTS (#2), 1367 REB (#2), 63.9 FG% (#3), 3-time All-American, 3-time national POY, 3-time NCAA MOP
USC: Harold Miner (1992) 2048 PTS (#1), 176 3PM (#1), 81.4 FT% (#1), 2-time All-American, conference POY
Washington: Christian Welp (1987) 2073 PTS (#1), 995 REB (#3), 186 BLK (#1), 56.2 FG% (#3), conference POY
Washington State: Isaac Fontaine (1997) 2003 PTS (#1), 208 3PM (#5), 45.7 3P% (#1), 161 STL (#5)