Edmonton’s NLL GM & Head Coach of the Year steps away for family reasons
Edmonton Rush General Manager and Head Coach Derek Keenan has announced that he will step away from the team with a leave of absence from full-time duties for the 2015 National Lacrosse League season due to personal family reasons.
At the start of last season, on October 15, 2013, Wendy Keenan, Derek’s wife, was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Derek has taken a leave of absence from his job with the city of Oshawa, where he manages a civic recreation complex, and is stepping away from the Rush for the 2015 season, which begins on January 3 in Buffalo. Keenan now needs to be by Wendy’s side full-time.
“It will be a challenge this year,” said Rush captain Chris Corbeil. “There is no question Derek is the leader of this group. He is well respected and he provides a lot of guidance and a certain calmness to things.”
Even though Keenan won’t attend practice or games, he will be involved. He doesn’t have a choice.
“Wendy said to me last week that I still have to be part of it,” explains Derek. “I’m just not going to be there until further notice. I think she wants me to stay involved, just so she can too.”
At the end of last season, the team came together to raise $7,500 on Wendy’s behalf, which was then matched by Rush owner Bruce Urban, for a total donation of $15,000 to help with medical costs.
“The generosity that Bruce, his wife Cindy, the front office staff, my coaching staff and that group of players displayed towards my family was incredible,” Keenan told TSN Radio 1260’s Jason Gregor in a TSN feature story. “I never dreamed of that. It’s not something I thought about, or necessarily even needed, but it was just our guys being who they are.”
This past September, Keenan won two awards at the 2014 NLL Season Awards Ceremony as General Manager of the Year and Head Coach of the Year (Les Bartley Award) winner.
Keenan marked the first GM in NLL history to win the General Manager of the Year award three times (2006, 2010 & 2014). He led Edmonton to a 14-0 start and 16-2 record as the top overall seed in the NLL standings, clinching the franchise’s first home playoff game.
The Oshawa, Ont. native, who played three seasons in the league, has been head coach of the Rush since 2009. Keenan had five previous years of head coaching experience after five seasons as an assistant coach. Keenan, who also serves as the Rush’s general manager, previously won the Les Bartley Award in 2006 and was a co-winner in 2010.