Keefe returns to Spokane, healed from split
In the last 10 months, Rob Keefe has been fired twice, moved across the country twice and visited with countless coaches and executives in the business world.
He’s seen, heard and learned a lot, especially about himself.
“I guess the best way to describe it is it’s been life-changing,” said Keefe, who helped the Spokane Shock win arena football championships as a player, assistant and head coach before being let go last August after two seasons as head coach.
“I left Spokane, the job and certain relationships and I’ve just grown from it. It was a personal journey to sit back and say, ‘What do you want to do? Do you really want to coach?’ Sometimes these things need to happen for a person to completely know who you are.”
Keefe has landed on his feet as defensive coordinator with Utah, which visits Spokane on Saturday for an Arena Football League contest that will impact both teams’ playoff aspirations.
Keefe, 31, still doesn’t agree with the Shock’s decision. At the time and to this day, he called it the equivalent of a divorce, saying, “What happens is you just move on. I loved you at one point, I’m not in love with you any more. I’ve put it to rest because it’s something I had to deal with for a year.”
After his dismissal, Keefe sought advice from numerous NFL and college coaches and attended several college football fall camps. He also picked the brains of high-level executives in government and private business.
He moved in with his brother’s family in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and re-discovered what he already knew – there’s more to life than football. Still, he knew he wanted to stay in coaching and weighed two offers to return to the AFL as a defensive coordinator.
He purposely chose the offensive side of the ball in Orlando. Outsiders wondered why, considering Keefe played defensive back and his coaching experience was on defense and special teams.
“The thing about coaching is you are building a resume,” he said. “Unfortunately, the talent wasn’t there.”
Orlando was 0-4 with the lowest-scoring offense in the league when Keefe was fired and replaced by AFL Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Bennett. The Predators are 1-11 and rank 16th of 17 teams in points scored.
Utah, following an 86-70 loss to Arizona, hired Keefe as defensive coordinator about three weeks ago. The move reunites Keefe with several former Shock players and Matt Sauk, who was the offensive coordinator on Spokane’s 2010 AFL championship squad.
The ties between the staffs run deep. Andy Olson, hired by Keefe as Shock offensive coordinator early in the 2011 season, was elevated to head coach and retained Travis Crusenberry, who worked under Keefe the last two seasons.
Keefe isn’t sure what he’ll hear from the crowd Saturday.
“I loved it up there,” he said. “The ownership group and I just didn’t get along. I’ve learned to balance football and be a well-rounded person. I hope the people know that I really tried to make Spokane a winner to the best of my abilities.”