KUsports.com looks back at the career of former athletic director Bob Frederick via the pictures in the KUsports.com archive.
To most in town, Bob Frederick was remembered as Kansas University’s extremely likable former athletic director, but to a group of grateful men in Lawrence and elsewhere, he is remembered simply as “Coach.”
“Calling him Bob or Freddy, that wasn’t until years later,” said Mark Kendall, who played basketball for Frederick at Lawrence High and is now living in Evanston, Ill. “We held him in such high regard we didn’t call him anything but Coach. In fact, it wasn’t until about six years ago that I called him anything but ‘Coach,’ and then it was only because he told me, ‘Mark, you can call me Bob now.’ We as young kids were very fortunate to have the caliber of person that Bob was. Basketball kind of came second, and he was darn good at that, too. The life lessons he taught us at a very impressionable age have hung with us all 30 years later.”
Joe Jones, managing director of Northwestern Mutual in Lawrence, remembered a conversation he had with Frederick in Allen Fieldhouse, two years after Jones’ basketball career ended after two years of junior college ball.
“He asked me, ‘How are you doing, Joe?’ I said, ‘I’m not doing good. Everything you told me to do, all the drills, all the hard work, I did them all and I didn’t get to play Division I basketball,’” Jones said. “I was really disillusioned. He told me, ‘Everything you’ve done, all the hard work you’ve put in, all the goal-setting, that will all contribute to your success in life.’ It wasn’t until seven or eight years later I realized he was right. I loved that guy, really loved that guy. He was like a father. He cared about everybody he was involved with and he cared about doing the right thing. To me, that guy was a saint.”
Larry Sinks, proprietor of Joe College, the edgy T-shirt shop on Mass. Street, also was touched at how Frederick didn’t stop caring about his players when he stopped coaching them.
“He was a very fair coach and what I liked was when basketball was over he stayed in touch with us and wanted to see how we were succeeding in life,” Sinks said. “I didn’t get to know Bob personally, instead of as a coach, until my senior year when we traveled to scout Shawnee Mission South together one night and I heard him talk to me as a friend instead of a coach. It was a great night for me. Great guy.”
Former KU football player Darren Green played basketball for Frederick at Lawrence High in his first three of four seasons as the Lions’ coach.
“He was fair and he worked us hard,” Green said. “I don’t know if we even touched a basketball the first few days of practice because he made sure our condition was top-notch. We ran all the time. Every drill we did was condition-oriented. We pressed the whole game. Nobody ever brought the ball up against us without facing pressure. Somebody turned his back on you we double-teamed him and started our rotation. It was all defense. I don’t think we learned any offense until a couple of days before our first game. We ran and we ran and we ran. It was tough. Coach Frederick was running marathons or half-marathons at the time. He’d run 13 miles and then we had practice. Just a great person, positive person and you always knew he was in your corner.”
By the time Frederick took the Lawrence High job, he already had worked as freshman coach at KU and as an assistant coach at Brigham Young University and Stanford.
“He was very polished, very professional and the example he set for us on the high school level — I don’t know that I’ve ever seen another coach who had that polish to him — yet as much as he was a pro’s pro, he was very humble and he set such a good example for us in his interactions with people whether they played sports or not,” Kendall said.
In four seasons (1977-1981) at LHS, Frederick’s best record came in 1979-80, when the Lions went 16-5.