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PREP SPORTS: Longtime coach Warren Keller dies

In early August, Mark Kroulik was in Altru Hospital to visit Warren Keller, his mentor and longtime friend. Keller had been battling cancer for approximately five years and was upbeat.

Warren Keller

In early August, Mark Kroulik was in Altru Hospital to visit Warren Keller, his mentor and longtime friend. Keller had been battling cancer for approximately five years and was upbeat.

"Warren had put up a courageous fight. He did everything he could to get his health back," Kroulik said. "He was in rehab, trying to get back the strength that chemotherapy had sapped out of him. He was in a wheelchair, but he said he would be walking out of the hospital. He was always looking ahead, never backing down."

Today, however, the cancer won. Keller, a longtime coach who is a member of two Minnesota high school coaches' halls of fame, died at LifeCare Medical Center in Roseau. He was 70.

Keller coached for 39 years. After his first two years at Comfrey, Minn., he moved to Argyle in the fall of 1969 and coached there through the 1991-92 school year. Keller then moved to Warroad, where he coached until 2008.

He's a member of the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame as well as the Minnesota High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

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While battling cancer, "I never heard Warren complain," said Kroulik, who was a football assistant coach under Keller at Argyle from 1984-89. "I never heard any self pity from him. And it wouldn't have been like him to complain."

Keller's football teams were state playoff qualifiers four times, winning the 1986 nine-man state title. Overall, he had a 71-29 record in football. He had a 385-241 record as a boys basketball coach, taking two Argyle teams to the Minnesota state tournament. He also was a head baseball coach early in his career.

While at Argyle, Keller's team had an ongoing rivalry with the Gary Schuler-coached Warren teams.

"Warren was stoic on the sideline," Schuler said. "Very rarely did you see him off the bench ranting and raving. And he taught his kids that same composure.

"Warren and I were old school, into the discipline. And we were both very intense. It was a really intense rivalry, but I think it was a respectful rivalry. Like any good coach, Warren was into a disciplined team. He was looking out for the kids and preparing them for their lives ahead."

Keller's intensity was as much in the preparation as in the game-day performances. He was a self-professed workaholic.

Schuler recalls a coaches clinic in which he, Keller and another coach rode together to the Twin Cities. On the entire ride back, Keller sat in the back seat, getting his clinic notes in order. "His scouting reports on opposing teams were amazing, and he had an immense coaching library,'' Schuler said.

Said Kroulik: "Warren was a great competitor, and a student of the game. I don't know of anybody who read more coaching books. And he loved watching sports -- high school game films, games on TV, anything. He just loved sports. He did lots of scouting, game plans, things like that. The most important part of coaching for him was preparation."

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Preparation for Keller, however, meant more than just games.

"Warren was driven to work hard," Kroulik said. "Coaching wasn't just about winning for him. It was getting kids to be as good as they could be."

DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to gdevillers@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: FOOTBALLPREP SPORTS
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