Kentucky basketball manager Bill Keightley, who was with the Wildcats for 48 seasons, died Monday in Cincinnati. He was 81.
Keightley died of internal bleeding caused by a previously undiagnosed tumor on his spine, the university said in a statement. Kentucky spokesman Scott Stricklin said Keightley was on a trip to see the Reds' season-opener and suffered a fall.
He was taken to University Hospital, where he died of internal bleeding Monday evening. Stricklin said doctors believe the fall was probably due to bleeding.
Keightley, known to many as Mr. Wildcat, started working at UK in 1962, as the equipment manager.
In 2002, the university presented the first Bill Keightley award. It's given to the "individual who understands and exemplifies the pride, respect, and the positive attributes associated with being a part of the Kentucky basketball program."
The Lawrenceburg, Ky. native had his jersey retired in the rafters at Rupp Arena in 1997. He's one of only two people who did not play or coach. The other was broadcaster Cawood Ledford. Keightley was also inducted into the charter class of the university's Hall of Fame in 2005.
Keightley had been on the UK bench for nearly 2,600 games, meaning he's played a role in about 57 percent of their games. His tenure reached back to the Adolph Rupp era and continued through Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and current Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie.
Coach Gillispie released this statement Monday:
"He influenced each of us on a daily basis and he was a great example of someone who loved his university more than anything obviously, he's in a better place, but the void he leaves is going to be a difficult situation."
Keightley is survived by his wife, Hazel, and daughter, Karen.
Kentucky fans will get a chance to pay their respects to Keightley during a public memorial service on Thursday.
A public viewing will be held on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rupp Arena lobby. A public memorial service will be held inside the arena from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday evening.