The guests, all standing, filled the well-adorned performing arts center with the haunting sounds of the University of Kansas alma mater song. A rousing chant of "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" was next, followed by a cheer better suited for nearby Allen Fieldhouse.
Not exactly the sounds you'd expect to hear at a memorial service, but a perfect punctuation for the celebration of Bob Frederick's life.
Kansas coaches and players joined hundreds of people in paying tribute to Frederick on Wednesday, recounting the former athletic director's verve for life and passion for making the lives of those around him better.
...The Lied Center was packed, filled with laughter and tears as friends, colleagues and a former student joined Frederick's four sons in remembering the man who meant so much to so many people.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who got his start at Kansas thanks to Frederick, sat in one of the first few rows, not far from former Jayhawks player Wayne Simien. Current men's basketball coach Bill Self and football coach Mark Mangino also were there, along with former KU athletic director Gene Budig, who hired Frederick. Former Jayhawks football coach Glen Mason and former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson also attended.
"The thing that he did epitomize at all times was class," Self said. "Everybody thought he was as professional and as classy a gentleman as there is. I had somebody, who has been at the university for many, many, many years and is very well respected at the university, tell me this is the biggest loss our university has had." AP
Former Kansas State athletic director Max Urick remembered Frederick’s suits. They always fit him just right. His tie was always tied so brilliantly it looked almost floral. His size 17 black loafers would glisten in the sun. No scuff marks.
Frederick would walk into athletic directors meetings in the Big Eight and Big 12 conferences looking so sharp Urick was embarrassed to sit next to him. Instead, he just watched. Urick, like so many of the others Frederick had worked with as a coach, teacher and AD, wanted to be like Bob.
“He never knew it, but I was one of those he was mentoring,” Urick said. “I couldn’t be obvious about that. Good grief, I was the athletic director at the other school.”
Katie Martincich was a student of Frederick’s and a KU volleyball player. She remembered the three-piece suits “Dr. Bob” would wear to class. She remembered the deliberate way he told stories. She remembered how he’d interject them into his lectures.
“I secretly thought, ‘This man is adorable, and I wish he was my grandpa,’” she said.
The irony was, Frederick always seemed too young for that. He was on a bike, as he so often was, when he suffered the injuries that killed him at 69 ? “A cowboy who died with his boots on,” said former KU vice chancellor David Ambler. Frederick took meticulous care of his body. He lived on a diet heavy in salmon and was known to show up at those AD’s gatherings with grapes in his briefcase, so as to avoid the catered junk food. The three people who have already received Frederick’s donated organs are thankful for that.
During his 14-year tenure as KU’s athletic director, Frederick was not without his critics. He hired Terry Allen to coach the football team, which did not turn out well. He hired Roy Williams to coach the basketball team, which did turn out well, although many were skeptical at the time. He dropped men’s tennis and swimming, which made people angry. No AD escapes the fury of a sports fan.
“‘If e-mails were bullets,’” the Rev. Peter Luckey remembers Frederick saying, “‘I’d be dead by now.’”
Frederick believed some costs of winning were too great. In 2001, with those costs seemingly rising, he resigned.
“I really think he’s the finest gentleman I’ve ever known, the most ethical, moral person,” Williams was quoted as saying. “He cared deeply about winning, but he cared more about what was best for the student-athlete and the coaches.”
Ambler took it further.
“His departure from it speaks volumes as to what is wrong with inter-collegiate athletics,” Ambler said. Some people remembered how Frederick had treated them, despite who they were not. Ray Bechard, the longtime KU volleyball coach, felt like he was as important as Larry Brown to Frederick.
“Everyone got Dr. Bob’s best shot,” Bechard said.
That made an impact on Frederick’s son, Brad, who, like his father, was a walkon basketball player who went into coaching.
“I always wanted to be like my dad,” he said, swallowing tears, “and make him proud.” TCJ*
Since news of Frederick’s death reached the public Friday, people have been trying to make sense of it, to come to grips with a life stolen just like that.
To get through it, the family has held two images close to its collective heart: Shortly after he died, his wife, Margey, called some friends who were waiting for word at his home on Clinton Lake. Minutes later, a red bird none of them had seen before perched near them (Bob always made sure to have at least a splash of red in his ties). Then, a perfect double rainbow appeared in the sky.
“I wanted to believe that was my dad telling everyone, ‘It’s going to be OK,’ ” Mark Frederick said. KC Star*
Last week, Billy Thomas scored 33 points for the alumni. He had a prior commitment Wednesday, leaving it up to Jackson, Keith Langford (20 points), Christian Moody (16) and floor general Miles (10) to steer the veterans to victory.
Miles, who played pro ball in Greece last season, hit a clutch, wide-open three to conclude the action.
He deflected the credit.
“Keith Langford drew the attention. Darnell Jackson set a flair screen. It was just good veteran basketball,” Miles said.
...The current Jayhawks were led by sophomore Marcus Morris, who hit seven of 10 shots and scored 20 points. Travis Releford and Cole Aldrich had nine and eight points, respectively.
“He is so athletic. That boy is going to be dangerous,” Jackson said of the 6-foot-8 Morris, who hit two threes in four tries.
Morris admits his confidence is booming.
“I’ve put in a lot of work. I try to lift two times a day, and I’m getting in the gym at least twice a day working on my three-pointer and foul shot,” Morris said. “I’m also working on getting to the basket.”
Collins has noticed the improvement.
“It’s every day, not just camp games,” Collins said. “I tip my cap to him. He’s working hard, and his brother (Markieff, four points) is working hard, doing everything they are supposed to do.” LJW
Kansas University freshman Jeff Withey and junior Tyrel Reed did not play in the scrimmage. Withey, a 7-foot transfer from the University of Arizona, is out two to four weeks with a sprained right thumb.
“I messed it up in a pickup game this week,” said Withey, who has a light protective cast on the thumb.
Reed has a bruised quad and is day-to-day.
Meanwhile, Mario Little played in the scrimmage. He has been cleared for full contact workouts following offseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in his lower-left leg.
Freshman guard Elijah Johnson, who has been plagued by a sore knee, scored two points. “He’s tired, sore,” KU guard Sherron Collins said. “He’s young but has a lot in his game you can’t teach. He’s real athletic but a little banged up now. He didn’t get a chance to play much.”
...Soph Travis Releford hit four shots in four tries, including a three, and had nine points. ... Freshman forward Thomas Robinson did not score with two steals and three boards. Former KU forward Christian Moody reports he’ll be attending KU medical school this fall. “I’ve got four more camp games to play in,” he joked, realizing med school is a multi-year program. Former University of Illinois guard Sergio McClain hit a three playing for the alumni. LJW Notebook
The NBA and NHL playoffs are over, football is still a couple of months away and I'd rather not have to pretend to enjoy baseball. So let's talk some college hoops. With so many quality underclassmen returning and so many stud freshmen arriving, we're looking at one heck of a season.
It's still a long way away, but here's my early take on the top teams for 2009-10, along with a host of others that could easily contend for a trip to the Final Four in Indy …
1. Kansas: This team stood toe-to-toe with eventual national runner-up Michigan State in the Sweet 16 -- and brings everybody back. Plus prize recruit Xavier Henry. Combine that with Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks' decision to stay in the draft, and KU isn't just the favorite; it's a big favorite -- almost as big as North Carolina last year. Sherron Collins can be coach Bill Self's Ty Lawson, and Cole Aldrich can be his Tyler Hansbrough. Pat Forde