At least one person in Ann Arbor was unhappy when basketball coach Bill Frieder escaped to Tempe last week. He is Steve Blonder, associate sports editor at the Daily, the University of Michigan's student newspaper.
Not that Blonder loves Frieder. It's just that the coach made such great copy.
"The guy kept us in stories for years," Blonder says of Arizona State University's new basketball chief. "He's a lousy winner when he wins and a lousy loser when he loses. He's a first-class complainer through and through, and we were always there to write down his latest monologue." He adds, "Frieder will be a lot of fun for reporters if they give him half a chance."
Frieder, a winning coach at Michigan except during NCAA tournament time, is a real worrywart on the court, and his impatience is legendary in Ann Arbor. Last November, Blonder says, the coach got so antsy about standing in line waiting to vote that he finally just split. "He told us later that he didn't have time to wait in lines, that he had more important things to do," Blonder recalls.
But others have been impatient with Frieder. One thing that may have prompted him suddenly to leave his highly ranked Michigan team on the eve of the NCAA tournament--an unusual move for a successful college coach--was his deteriorating relationship with football coach Bo Schembechler, who doubles as athletic director and is the next thing to a deity in Ann Arbor.
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"Bo is everything Frieder wasn't, except for the fact that they both have tempers," Blonder says. "Bo likes to do everything aboveboard, and he doesn't pull any bullshit. It was clear that when Bo got the job as athletic director their personality conflict would really get worse, and it did."
Blonder says the feud heated up a few months ago when Schembechler sent an associate on the road during Michigan's basketball trips to keep an eye on Frieder.
"Bo had heard the same stories that we did," Blonder says, "about the lack of control of his team. Michigan doesn't fire coaches in any sport, but Bo was after Frieder's hide, and everyone in Ann Arbor knew it."
So how will Bad Bill stack up with Tucson's pretty-boy BMOC, University of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson? "As a coach," Blonder says, "Olson is superior. As a recruiter, Frieder is probably his equal. As far as appearance? Well, earlier this year, we noticed that Bill had a hair in place, and we figured he was using a new kind of mousse or something."