Keller recalls 38-year coaching career
BY KEVIN WOODRUFF
Wyoming County Press Examiner
Allen “Butch” Keller announced his resignation as head coach at Western Wayne last week, stepping away after a 38-year coaching career.
The 1962 Tunkhannock graduate said he isn’t retired yet, but wasn’t happy with the direction the Wildcat program was heading.
Keller, 68, of Lakeville, begin his storied football career with humble beginnings at Tunkhannock Area where Keller began playing youth football with coach George “Duke” Bunnell.
From there, he moved on to set records at Tunkhannock as a varsity running back, helping the Tigers to a 7-3 finish in his sophomore season, a 7-2-1 record in his junior season and a 7-3-1 record in his senior season, all under coach Charlie Shaw.
From there, Keller went on to play at Bucknell University before finishing out his college career at Mansfield University.
Keller played for coach Rod Kelchner, before taking a job coaching the Mountaineers for two years as he finished out his college career.
“I grew up playing for coach Bunnell and coach Shaw,” Keller said. “And all along I wanted to be a coach.”
After he graduated from Mansfield, he took a job as a teacher and coach at Honesdale High School, where he spent 26 years.
From Honesdale, Keller took a coaching job at Western Wayne where he spent four years, and led the Wildcats to a Suburban Conference championship in 1995.
After resigning because of a heart attack, Keller returned to the helm, but this time at Bishop O’Hara.
Keller turned an 8-32 O’Hara team over a 40-game span to a 25-19 team before leaving one year after the school was turned into what is now known as Holy Cross.
And in the past five years at Western Wayne, he helped the Wildcats snap a 41-game losing streak and win 14 games.
Throughout his high school coaching years, Keller has amassed a 219-179-4 record.
“I just really enjoy coaching,” Keller said. “Being around the kids and the other coaches, it’s just a great atmosphere.”
In addition to his success as a high school coach, he was also head coach of the Scranton Eagles from 1984-1994, helping the semi-professional team to four national championships while amassing a 146-23-4 record.
Keller, who still visits Tunkhannock often and has a fondness for the community, said he at one time was in the running to be a coach for the Tigers.
“It was my fourth or fifth year out of high school and I was home from Mansfield playing basketball in the gym,” Keller said. “(Ambrose) ‘Dutch’ Keller approached me and asked me when I was getting out of school, and I told him that I was about to graduate.
“He went down to the office and got me a coaching application, but that night, he died,” Keller said. “I did still interview, but I had stomach problems that day. Anyone in that room probably thought I had mental problems with the way I was acting.”
However, Keller still remembers and keeps with him many of the lessons taught to him by both Bunnell and Shaw.
“I can still remember the things that Bunnell said to me,” Keller said. “My father died when I was young and he really took me under his wing.”
He said the thing about coach Shaw he takes with him most is his coaching style.
“The man never swore,” Keller said. “We had a few great years together. He was a wonderful coach. I hear the way coaches talk to the players now and I can’t believe it.”
Keller said high school football is much different from when he first started in the 1960s.
“The landscape is so different,” Keller said. “The kids were inundated with electronics. Now, they have so many things pulling them in different directions.”
Keller said the electronic area really changed to landscape of high school athletics, and in more recent years it has been intensified with a generation of parents who were “raised on television.”
Keller said some parents see things on television and assume their child is going to get a scholarship for football.
“Don’t get me wrong, some parents are terrific,” Keller said. “but they are so much more aware now, and they are very competitive.”
Keller attributes the differences today with changes in society.
Anything from eligibility lists to increased focus on concussions.
He also sees more self-centered behavior out of players in recent years.
“It’s really tough to break the idea of ‘me, me, me!’” Keller said. “And just the idea of being positive and working together.”
Keller has also seen a shift against the idea of winning.
“Administrators will tell you it’s all about building the program and it’s not about winning,” Keller said. “But in life we want kids to be winners.”
While Keller’s future as a head coach is unclear, he is proud of what he’s been able to do in 38 years.
“I’ve been inducted into six halls of fame,” Keller said. “You stick around long enough and they’ll start giving you awards,”
Keller is adamant that he’s not retired from coaching and said he is playing it by ear.
“I’ve had a few inquires,” Keller said. “I mean, I love coaching, but at my age, it has to be right.”