We called each other “Cuz” because one letter separated our last names.
Keith Mahaney was one of a kind: engaging, charismatic and charming without flamboyance.
You didn’t have to hunt to find him during the basketball season. If there was a University of Maine game being played in Bangor or Orono, he was there.
Mahaney, who died of a brief illness at age 88 on Nov. 1, was the type of person you would approach in a grocery store to chat with even if you were holding a bag of ice or in a hurry because you knew you would learn something or would hear a memorable story.
“He was a great storyteller,” said former University of Maine athletic director Steve Abbott.
A student of sports, particularly basketball, Mahaney had intelligent opinions and observations based on his insight and his remarkable athletic background. He would gladly share his opinions with you but he would also listen to yours and respect them even if they were different from his.
The Fort Fairfield native and former UMaine basketball star was inducted into eight Halls of Fame including the University of Maine, Maine Sports, Maine Basketball, New England Basketball and the Husson University halls.
UMaine retired Mahaney’s No. 24 jersey. He started for the basketball team all four years and held 11 of the 14 UMaine basketball records when he graduated in 1957. He was an honorable mention All-American.
As a sophomore, he was the nation’s fifth-best foul shooter with an 81.4 percent showing. His junior year, he led the Yankee Conference in scoring with a 23.8 points per game average. He also was a track athlete at UMaine.
Abbott, son of former longtime UMaine football coach Walter Abbott, said his father has told him stories about Mahaney’s basketball prowess.
“When I was a kid, my dad said Keith was a player who was ahead of his time. He was a magical ballhandler,” Abbott said. “He used to dribble a basketball around campus, up and down the library steps.”
Walt Abbott said his dribbling on campus was part of freshman hazing.
“Everyone knew he could dribble the ball so they had him dribble on campus. He was way ahead of his time. He could dribble behind his back and between his legs, he’d throw passes behind his back. People came to watch him play,” said Walt Abbott.
And Steve had the pleasure of knowing him, especially during his tenure as the athletic director.
“You couldn’t meet a nicer guy,” said Abbott. “He and [his wife] Karlene were such a presence at our games. They loved the university. They loved the players and they were so supportive.”
Abbott said Mahaney had tremendous pride in the university and always wanted administrators to strive to improve the teams and their resources.
His brother, Larry, was a big-time financial booster and has several facilities named after him like the Mahaney Diamond baseball field and the Mahaney Dome indoor multi-sport facility on campus. Keith was also a financial supporter of the university.
Keith Mahaney, who went on to coach several sports including basketball, sincerely cared about people. He would always ask about you and your family.
University of Maine senior associate athletic director for development Seth Woodcock, whose father, Chandler, often crossed paths with Mahaney when the elder Woodcock coached high school basketball. If Keith saw Seth at games, he would pass a hello to Chandler and ask to see pictures of his kids.
Woodcock would always send Mahaney a thank you note after Mahaney had sent a financial gift to the university.
“He would pull me aside and tell me how much he appreciated [the thank you note],” Woodcock said.
He also had a keen sense of humor. It was clever and natural. He had an infectious smile and laid-back zest for life. He cherished his wife. They were inseparable.
It won’t be the same at UMaine basketball games without Keith Mahaney.
“All of us in Black Bear athletics will miss Keith and seeing his big smile, warm handshakes and his great stories from the UMaine past,” Woodcock said.