FOR RELEASE: February 14th, 2023
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -Steve Keller, a 45-year veteran of the Montana coaches ranks has announced his decision to retire at the end of this season.
Keller said it just felt like it was time to step away from the game he knows and loves, “They say that everybody knows when it is time. I can’t say I ever knew it was time, but I can say that the last couple of years it has definitely crossed my mind regularly. It was not an easy decision to make. I just feel like it is time, to enjoy life, have some freedom from August to March and to do some bucket item things.”
Keller also shared, “The grind, the long season, it wears you down. It (coaching) is what I have been doing the last 45 years. Pretty proud that I have lasted that long. You know, 40 of the 45 years I have been a head coach.”
Keller became the head coach of the University of Providence men’s basketball program in March 2018, after 11 years coaching for conference rival University of Montana Western.
During Keller’s inaugural season as the Argos head coach, he led the program to an 18-12 overall record and a 9-9 conference finish, ending the season fourth in the Frontier. In his second season, he led the Argos to a 24-8 record and a berth in the NAIA National Championships in Kansas City, Missouri. Unfortunately, the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also led the Argos to the highest national ranking in program history at 8th.
Keller led the Argos to their first outright conference championship since 1983 and won the program’s first Frontier Conference Tournament during the 2020-2021 season. They qualified for the NAIA National Tournament, where they made it to the Round of 32. The team finished the season ranked #10. For his efforts, Keller was named the Frontier Conference Coach of the Year.
In 2021-22, the Argos were 11-18 overall with a 2-13 conference record. Providence is currently 13-14 overall in the 2022-2023 season with one regular season game remaining at Carroll Feb. 18. before the Frontier tournament.
“Mark Durham gave me the opportunity to become a college head coach,” says Keller. “I totally love what I do. The longevity, the feeling that we were competitive all those years, built successful programs at every place I have coached. I have had some terrific assistants throughout the years. I have a coaching tree of over 30-some guys in it. I wouldn’t have had the success without great assistants, and I have had great players. You gotta have players to win.”
Under Keller, the UMW Bulldogs averaged twenty wins per season and have been to the NAIA national tournament eight of his final nine seasons at the school. During that time, the Bulldogs advanced to the second round five times and the quarterfinals twice. Keller has coached ten NAIA All-Americans. Eight at UMW, and two at UP.
Keller is a 1974 graduate of Custer (Mont.) High School and a1978 graduate of Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont. where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in history. He received his master’s degree from Northern Montana College.
Keller averaged 21.5 points per game during his four-year career at Custer, scoring 2,206 career points, ranking him tenth all-time in the Montana High School Association record books. Keller also holds career marks for free throws made and attempted in the MHSA record books.
Keller played baseball for the Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears from 1975-78, under longtime Rocky professor and coach, C.R. Stiffler. He began his career at Opheim High School, where he led the Vikings to three-straight Class C girls’ basketball state championships (1982-84).
In 1985, Keller took over the Helena High School girls’ basketball program and led the Bengals to three Class AA state titles in 1990, 1991 and 1997. As the boys’ assistant basketball coach, the Bengals claimed the 1991 state championship.
Keller racked up an impressive 610-180 record as a Montana high school head coach. Including his college record, Keller is 924-329.
In 2004, Keller moved on to the college ranks, serving as Gary Turcott’s men’s basketball assistant coach at Carroll College until 2007. He was then named the head men’s basketball coach at Montana Western in 2007. Under Keller, the Bulldogs compiled a 231-124 record, winning three Frontier Conference titles and qualifying for the NAIA National Tournament eight times.
Keller is a five-time Frontier Conference Coach of Year. He was inducted into the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005.
He took over coaching the Montana team in the Midland Roundtable Montana-Wyoming all-star basketball series in 2012 and has a perfect 20-0 record
The Argos are currently battling for a bye in the first round of the conference tournament which begins in Great Falls Feb. 26 at Four Seasons Arena. “Right now, I want to finish the season with the guys. We are currently sitting in second place. I would love to finish out strong with our team and the conference tournament.
“It will be business as usual for the next couple of weeks. We have a season to finish out and I am going to coach as hard as I always have. I am going to miss it there is no doubt. I love what I do, and I always have. I do want to go watch my grandkids, and my two sons are still coaching so I can watch them. I would also like to spend more time with my wife Mary Kay, who has been along with me for the whole college ride.”
Steve and his wife, Mary Kay, have two sons, Wes and Josh. Wes is the head women’s basketball coach at Rocky Mountain College, and Josh is the assistant women’s coach at Beaverhead High School in Dillon. Both Wes and Josh earned their degrees from Montana Western and played basketball for the Bulldogs under Coach Mark Durham. Steve and Mary Kay also have three daughters: Shandi, who is a Blackhawk helicopter pilot; Hayley, a kindergarten teacher in Montana City, and Nicole, who is attending school and working towards her nursing degree. They are also the proud grandparents of twins Hayden and Tucker, Cassie, Kansas, and Neisa.
Keller adds that he is not quitting, he is retiring, “Tom Brady and I got together and since he played until he was 45, and I coached 45years,so we decided that it was time.”
The University of Providence (UP) is a private, Roman Catholic Liberal Arts University founded in 1932 by the Sisters of Providence. The University of Providence honors the Sisters’ vision today by providing a mission-driven education to those that need it the most. UP is located in Great Falls, Montana and offers both undergraduate and graduate level liberal arts programs and health programs. For more information visit www.uprovidence.edu.