Bill Frieder’s career as Michigan’s basketball coach ended a bit more abruptly than he had intended Wednesday.
Frieder, after announcing his resignation to take over Arizona State’s flagging program next season, was summarily told by Michigan Athletic Director Bo Schembechler not to bother coaching the Wolverines in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament. Michigan plays Xavier of Cincinnati in a first-round game Friday at Atlanta.
“I don’t want someone from Arizona State coaching the Michigan team,” Schembechler said. “A Michigan man is going to coach Michigan.”
Frieder’s assistant, Steve Fisher, was told by Schembechler to take over for the NCAA tournament.
Frieder, 47, accepted the Sun Devil job the day after Purdue’s Gene Keady turned it down.
Frieder, who flew to Phoenix Tuesday evening, said that Arizona State Athletic Director Charles Harris gave him 20 minutes to decide whether to take the job.
Frieder, a noted night owl, informed his players of the move in a series of calls, culminating in an early-morning call to Jack Weidenbach, Michigan’s senior associate athletic director.
Weidenbach told Frieder of the decision he and Schembechler made the night before, when rumors were spreading that Frieder was leaving.
“If you know Bo, it doesn’t take him long with a decision, and that’s the way it’s done,” Weidenbach said.
Arizona State sought permission to speak with Frieder several weeks ago, he said.
“There wasn’t any animosity,” Weidenbach said. “Obviously, I think he’d like to coach the team (in the tournament). . . . We wish him well. He’s done a good job while he was here.”
An Arizona State spokesman said that the school sent Frieder to Atlanta on a private plane after a morning news conference.
Frieder admitted that his timing was poor, but said it was a move he had to make.
“I do regret the timing,” he said. “The timing is bad. I won’t argue with that. There’ll be some negatives about me on that end but some positives on this end.
“I feel badly about my (Michigan) players. I talked to them all this morning and told them I’d be in Atlanta to meet them and talk with them again. The kids are going to be disappointed, but they’re good players and they’ll do all right.
“Make no mistake about it. I love Michigan. I was born in Michigan and lived there all my life. I went to school at the University of Michigan, got my degrees and have coached there for 16 years. I’ve had great success. It’s a tough decision. But I know it’s the right decision.
“This is a career move for me. This is something for me for the next nine or 10 years. Hopefully I’ll coach (at Arizona State) until I retire.”
Harris said that Frieder will be signed to a four-year contract, subject to approval by the state Board or Regents. The deal reportedly is worth between $250,000 and $300,000 a season.
Keady reportedly was offered a contract worth $300,000 a year but decided Tuesday morning to stay at Purdue.
Frieder, who took over from Johnny Orr in 1980 after seven seasons as Orr’s assistant, had a 191-87 record at Michigan and led the school to 20 or more victories and an NCAA tournament berth in each of the last six seasons. The Wolverines, 94-10 at home under Frieder, also earned berths in the National Invitation Tournament in 1981 and 1984, winning the title in 1984.
In 1985, Frieder was named the Associated Press’ coach of the year and Big Ten coach of the year.
Frieder becomes the ninth head coach in Arizona State’s 56-year basketball history and the fourth since 1982 when Ned Wulk was fired despite a 406-272 record over 25 years.
Bob Weinhauer was dismissed in 1985 after going 44-45 in three seasons.
Steve Patterson, a first-year assistant, was named interim coach for 1985-86 and full-time coach the next season, but resigned Feb. 4 in his fourth season with a 48-56 overall record.
Second-year assistant Bob Schermerhorn was named interim coach and went 2-7 as the Sun Devils finished 12-16 with five straight losses. They also were 5-13 in the Pacific-10 Conference, their sixth consecutive losing season in the conference.
“There’s no question the program is down right now,” Frieder said. “This is a tough job. I’m not going to lie to you. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Our goal is to put a competitive team on the floor and see progress each year. I’m an extremely hard worker and I have confidence in myself that we’re going to do things the right way and get the program turned around. It’s not going to happen overnight.
“Sometimes you say, ‘Hey, I’ve accomplished everything at this place. It’s time to move on to a new challenge.’ This is a new challenge.”
Frieder indicated some urgency in his conversation with senior center J.P. Oosterbaan.
“He said he loved us all, but this was something he had to do if he wanted to stay in coaching.” Oosterbaan said.
Wolverine co-captain Mark Hughes said Frieder’s resignation will be a big distraction.
“It’s not every day that a coach leaves,” he said. “All the veteran players have to come together and play really hard.
“We all look forward to seeing him down there. He’ll be there, but not sitting on the bench.”
Frieder said he has recommended Fisher as his successor, as he himself succeeded Orr, and, “I hope my endorsement doesn’t hurt him.”
Schembechler, however, said he would “seek the greatest basketball coach in America to coach this team.”
Schembechler said he would talk with Indiana Coach Bob Knight, a longtime friend, to get advice on the selection.
Gary Grant, the Clippers’ rookie guard who played for Frieder at Michigan, said the consensus among the Wolverines will be to hire Fisher.
“I’ll bet you Bo will leave it up to them,” he said.
Grant said he was surprised that Frieder left before the season ended, but not that he left.
“I don’t think he would have stayed, say, three more years,” said Grant, the Big Ten player of the year last season at Michigan. “Everyone was putting pressure on him because he didn’t win the big games or that he had a sissy preseason schedule. Maybe he saw it coming and decided to get out of there.”