Dan Keane was known for many things during his time as a teacher and coach at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, N.J. Many knew him, first and foremost, as the affable, accomplished, longtime coach for a pair of powerhouse programs in New Jersey, but on the morning of Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, those who knew the man beyond the athletic arena recalled two of his other talents.

The first was as winter storm forecaster. Long before smart phones and before winter even arrived each year, CBA students and faculty would check with Keane to find out how much snow was coming that winter.

“It would be the beginning of the school year, and teachers and students would go up to him and ask, ‘Mr. Keane, how much snow are we getting this year,’” said Tom Mulligan, who played for Keane on the CBA varsity soccer team and succeeded him as its head coach in 2016. “He would think about it for a second and say, ‘You know, I don’t think it’ll be much,’ or ‘It’s going to be a big one.’ He was pretty good at it, too. If you were at CBA, you always knew what kind of winter it was going it be.”

The second, and perhaps most widely-known characteristic of Mr. Keane, the teacher, was his core belief that his students should “ease into the weekend.”

“If you had Coach Keane in class and it was a Friday, you knew it was going to be a laid-back day,” said Dave Santos, who played with Mulligan at CBA and has gone on to coach soccer and lacrosse, both at CBA and elsewhere at the Jersey Shore. “His saying was ‘Ease into the weekend.’ We would just sit in class and talk to each other, talk to him and just enjoy the time together.”

In a heartbreakingly fitting manner, Dan Keane died Thursday night, just hours before a snow storm would help most of New Jersey ease into its weekend. He was 76 years old.

Keane underwent bypass surgery in November and suffered complications from the procedure that kept him in the hospital for an extended period of time before he was finally released, according to Mulligan. He passed away on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024 – 10 days after his 76th birthday – with his family present.

“The entire community at CBA is going to be devastated today,” Mulligan said on Friday. “Coach was a larger-than-life figure at CBA. He was awarded almost every accolade a coach can be awarded: Coach of the Year, Coach of the Decade, Coach of the Millennium. He was an absolute treasure to be around in school and out on the field. All of the players who played for him are going to be very saddened by this loss, but all of them will come to the realization of what a special person he was and how their lives were impacted by him.”

In a statewide sports landscape known for fiery head-coaches like Bob Hurley Sr. of St. Anthony’s basketball or Ken Frank of Toms River South baseball, Keane built one of New Jersey’s most accomplished boys soccer programs with a laid-back demeanor that might seem antithetical to his coaching résumé.

Ask his former players, and it was that personality that set the foundation for what CBA soccer would become and remains today.

“He is not your prototypical high school coach,” Santos said. “He had his own unique way. It was a relaxed approach. The biggest thing he did, which you really see in every facet of life at CBA, is he created a culture. The teachers cared about the students, the coaches cared about the players, and the players loved each other. My best friends are guys I played with at CBA and that’s true of most of the players who played there.”

“I come from a soccer family and we used to joke that Coach Keane wasn’t always the most knowledgeable about the game, but the way he got players and young men to come together speaks to how he looked at life,” said Scott Thomsen, who was a rare freshman starter at CBA and graduated in 2012 before going on to play professionally. “He was always able to give us the message that we needed and never took things too seriously. At the same time, he was a great motivator. You always wanted to play hard and win for him.”

“It’s high school soccer,” 2017 CBA graduate Patrick Kollman said. “It is supposed to be about building the culture and building the kids up. It’s about the camaraderie. The best years of my life were at CBA playing soccer, just enjoying the sport. In college, I wouldn’t say it’s more jaded, but it’s more performance-based and you feel that all the time. At CBA, it was all love and that’s a testament to Coach Keane and the person he was.”

An Unmatched Résumé

Between soccer and tennis, Keane led his teams to 1,214 wins and 21 overall NJSIAA championships, with 545 of those wins and four Non-Public A championships coming in soccer. He led the Colts to eight Shore Conference Tournament championships in boys soccer, which included a record of 8-1-1 in the SCT championship game. The only team to beat CBA in the SCT final while Keane was head coach was the 2009 Marlboro team coached by Santos, Keane’s former player.

“We have different coaching styles, but we’re alike in a lot of ways,” Santos said. “He was always that calm presence on the sideline and I’ve always tried to be the same way. He knew teams adopted the personality of their coach and he was always very aware of that.”

Former CBA soccer coach Dan Keane. (Photo courtesy of CBA Athletics)
Former CBA soccer coach Dan Keane. (Photo courtesy of CBA Athletics)

Keane also finished with a 669-157 career record during his 38 seasons as tennis coach. Under Keane's direction, the Colts tennis program won 17 state championships, including eight straight from 1979 - his first season as coach - to 1986 and eight more in a row from 1988 to 1995.

“I didn’t even really know about his career coaching tennis,” Thomsen said. “I knew CBA had a good tennis program and I knew he coached it, but when you see the list of championships and how many wins, it’s pretty amazing. But it’s not surprising, because all of the things that made him a great coach in soccer he could just as easily apply to tennis or any other sport.”

Keane began teaching at CBA in 1977 and by 1979, the Colts soccer program reached its first NJSIAA Non-Public A championship game in Keane’s second season as head coach. Thirteen years later, Keane led the Colts to their first ever overall state championship.

CBA authored state championship seasons in 1992, 1998 and 2000 and for years, the 1998 team served as the standard by which CBA teams were measured. That changed in 2011, when CBA had its best season in program history. The 2011 Colts went 21-0 and defeated Delbarton, 1-0, in the state final on an overtime golden goal by Thomsen.

Thomsen is part of a soccer family with deep roots at CBA. His uncle, Tom Rafferty, played at CBA during the early years of Keane’s tenure and his cousin, Patrick Rafferty, graduated just a few years before Thomsen did.

Thomsen went on to play at the University of Virginia, where he won a national championship with the Cavaliers. He then had a brief professional career in Major League Soccer (MSL) and the United Soccer League (USL) before getting into coaching, which he currently does at the club level in the Richmond, Va. Area.

“Being in coaching now in Richmond, coaching the youth clubs around here, you see how less important soccer-specific stuff is and how much more the interpersonal stuff is,” Thomsen said. “How to interact with teammates, believe in themselves, go through the daily struggles: those are things that make a good team and Coach Keane had such a great grasp of all those things.”

After the entire 2011 team graduated in the spring of 2012, CBA endured its worst season in the fall of 2012. It was the only season in which CBA finished with a losing record and failed to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament.

“Yeah, we left him hanging out to dry that year,” Thomsen joked. “We were just glad we finished the job the year before because we knew we were all leaving. Fortunately, they got back on top.”

CBA soccer got back on track in 2013 and by 2014, the Colts were back in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A championship game. Although Notre Dame defeated CBA, that appearance began a 10-year run of sectional final appearances that remains active.

The Final Year

Prior to the 2015 season, Keane announced it would be his final year as a coach at CBA – soccer in the fall and tennis in the spring. He had a junior-loaded roster in boys soccer that was ready to make a play for both Shore Conference and state championships, even though its apex would be the following year.

Motivated to send Keane out on top, CBA won its first Shore Conference Tournament championship since 2011 and made it back to the Non-Public A final as well. The Colts fell to Delbarton in the championship game and Keane said goodbye to his players for the final time as their head coach.

A year later, Mulligan took over the program from his former coach and guided CBA to a 24-1 season that ended with the Colts defeating Seton Hall Prep, 1-0, on a late goal by senior Matt Thorsheim – whose older brother, Chris, starred on the undefeated 2011 team.

The day after winning the state championship, the players took the day off from school and celebrated at Kollman’s parents’ house in Little Silver. The year prior, the players invited Keane to celebrate with them after winning the Shore Conference Tournament final. This time, they brough the party to him.

“Some of my core memories of high school are going over to Coach’s house after winning that state championship,” said Kollman, who played soccer at Carnegie Mellon. “He was always such a great supporter, even after he stepped down as coach and even after high school. I would still stop and chat with him and he was always interested in talking to me about how college was going or, after I graduated, about my job.”

Dan Keane outside his home with CBA's 2016 NJSIAA Non-Public A championship team. (Photo provided by Patrick Kollman)
Dan Keane outside his home with CBA's 2016 NJSIAA Non-Public A championship team. (Photo provided by Patrick Kollman)

Kollman grew up just steps away from where Keane lived in Little Silver, but did not know it until his sophomore year at CBA. His obliviousness to Keane’s proximity underscored another aspect of their coach that Kollman and his teammates swore by, but few outside the program could fathom: Keane did not recruit players.

“Coach Keane didn’t recruit,” Kollman said. “Kids from other teams would ask us how we ended up at CBA and they would, I guess, assume somebody recruited us to go there, but that wasn’t how it worked. Kids would show up just to be a part of it, because it already had that reputation as a place where you went to win and experience that brotherhood. We all showed up as freshmen wanting to be a part of it and when we were seniors, we wanted to go undefeated and win a state championship.”

The Man Behind the Legend

Keane’s easy-going, friendly personality and booming voice was too inviting not to imitate. Thomsen said he can still hear his old coach calling out to him in the hallways.

“I’ll always remember how boisterous that voice was,” Thomsen said. “I would just hear it getting to the field or walking down the halls: ‘Scoootyyyy, how’s it going?’ As a freshman at CBA, it could get a little intimidating, especially in my first year in a private school. When I was a junior, I tore my ACL and he was always checking in to see how I was doing. Just having that presence and knowing he was looking out for me definitely made things easier.”

That warm personality even inspired a parody Twitter account (run by an anonymous CBA student in 2013-14) that captured Keane’s essence, save for the occasional hyperbole (there is no evidence to suggest Keane “got high at Woodstock”). The account was called “Hum Blue!” after Keane’s most common in-game rallying-cry toward his team.

When it came to the media, Keane always had time to talk, but he usually preferred to talk about the newspaper business or the Yankees, or whatever the person with whom he was speaking was passionate about. When the subject moved to his team, he would oblige, but he typically preferred to pass the credit – and interview time – to his players and Jeff Matson.

Matson was CBA’s assistant coach from 1997 through Keane’s final season and remained on the staff with Mulligan through the 2018 season before retiring to Virginia.

“Dan was always a coach and a people manager and I was the soccer guy,” Matson said. “He was a motivator and one to steady the ship. When I came on, I wanted to shift us from a direct style of play to more possession and he always handled the communication and player relations part. We always worked really well together and we had a great run of teams with a lot of great personalities and a lot of fun. CBA lost one of its legends."

Keane also experienced CBA athletics as a parent, with his son, Dan. Jr., starting for CBA across three sports: soccer, hockey and baseball.

“There have been athletes who started in three sports at CBA, but it is very rare,” Mulligan said. “Dan didn’t boast about his son’s accomplishments, but I can tell you he was extremely proud of Dan Jr.

“Dan Jr. was very close with his father. It was a father and son relationship, for sure, but they became almost like best friends.”

Former CBA soccer coach Dan Keane with current CBA head coach Tom Mulligan. (Photo courtesy of CBA Athletics)
Former CBA soccer coach Dan Keane with current CBA head coach Tom Mulligan. (Photo courtesy of CBA Athletics)

One Last CBA Honor

In the years since retiring, Keane has attended about two games per year, according to Mulligan, and always made an appearance at CBA’s alumni game.

In the fall of 2023, CBA unveiled Dan Keane Field. The school’s new turf field that overlooks Newman Springs Road opened for the 2022 season, but once the new scoreboard bearing its former coach’s name was finally ready for this past season, the field was officially named in Keane’s honor.

Keane is part of a legendary coaching quartet at CBA that includes basketball coach Vinnie Cox, cross country and track-and-field coach Tom Heath and baseball coach Marty Kenney Sr. CBA has had accomplished coaches since those four have stepped away, as well as standout coaches in other programs, but those four are considered to be the founding fathers of the CBA athletic program as it exists today.

“They don’t come much nicer than Dan Keane,” said Mulligan, whose son, Conor, also played for Keane. “Vinnie Cox is another one like that. I would say some of the pillars of CBA Athletics are Dan, Vinnie, Tom Heath and Marty Kenney. CBA has a lot of great people, but those four basically started their respective programs and made them extremely successful.”

Over a cold weekend in snow-sprinkled Monmouth County – and in many other places around the country and the world that Keane’s pupils have settled – former players and others that knew Keane will recount stories with their coach and very few, if any will be about the X’s and O’s of the sports he coached.

“When everybody wants to push harder and harder, there is something to be said for taking a step back and just putting things into perspective, especially with kids,” Mulligan said. “That was Dan Keane. Don’t take things too seriously. Ease into the weekend. That’s what we have been texting about in our group chat all morning. He left us on a Thursday night and now he is dumping a bunch of snow on us to ease into the weekend. Only Coach Keane could go out like that.”

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