Welcome back to a revenge-themed edition of BracketRacket, the one-stop shopping place for all your offbeat NCAA tournament needs. In today’s edition, we attend a reunion, watch now-you-see-him, now-you-don’t Michigan star Chris Webber wolf down lunch, celebrate Miller Time —sort of — and follow Dickie V. as he takes the bull by the horns.
So without further ado:
GO WEST, NOT SO-YOUNG MEN
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Bill Frieder and Steve Fisher are having a reunion?
But not for the reason you’re thinking.
Twenty-five years ago, Frieder was coaching Michigan and Fisher was his close pal and top lieutenant. On the eve of the NCAA tournament, the former accepted a job at Arizona State and was famously relieved of his duties on the spot by athletic director Bo Schembechler, who tersely explained, "A Michigan man will coach Michigan." The latter took over and won the whole shebang.
They’ll meet again Thursday in Anaheim, Calif., when Frieder calls the game for Westwood One radio between Arizona and Fisher’s San Diego State Aztecs.
"If I had it to do all over again, I probably wouldn’t have told the truth and maybe something else would have happened," Frieder told Associated Press sports writer Bernie Wilson. "But I’m always positive about it and never look back. My assistant went on and won the national championship. That was a goal of ours and a culmination of hard work."
If anything, the two might be even tighter now, maybe because the sailing hasn’t been smooth for either since.
After the 1989 championship, Fisher was derided as "The Accidental Coach," a knock reinforced when Michigan’s anarchic "Fab Five" reached back-to-back title games and left both empty-handed (remember Chris Webber’s phantom timeout?). Fisher was run out of Ann Arbor in 1997, a week before practice began, after investigators learned he was leaving comp tickets for Ed Martin, a retired electrician who’d been paying several players under the table.
Frieder lasted eight seasons at Arizona State, but made the tournament only twice before resigning in 1997. He never quite shook his reputation, either, as a kind of absent-minded professor. As one story goes, Frieder was recruiting a high school player when another college coach in the stands turned to him and said, "If Bo Derek was a 10, this kid’s a 9." To which Frieder replied, "Forget this kid. Where’s the Bo Derek kid play?"
Both eventually wound up back on their feet. Frieder, now 72, was a Michigan man through and through — born, raised, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Michigan — but learned to love life out west and is the lead analyst for Westwood One. Fisher, 69, became an NBA assistant in Sacramento for a season and returned to the college game with San Diego State in 1999. He’s strung together nine 20-win seasons since, and taken the Aztecs to the tournament the last five.
Frieder was behind the mic when San Diego State made it to the Sweet 16 the last time, in 2011. The few uncomfortable moments between them are usually limited to postgame interviews.
"I do my job," Frieder said. "But also, when I interview him, I preface it by saying, ‘I’m interviewing my very good friend.’"
NO NEED FOR ‘AIR QUOTES.’ IT’S HIM, ALL RIGHT.
Speaking of Chris Webber, BracketRacket loves his new tournament-themed ad for Burger King.
Not because of the plot (nonexistent) or the acting (barely) or even the happy ending (poppycock) — but for the sheer chutzpah making it entailed. Watch it if you must (via YouTube.com: http://bit.ly/1huZJuB ), but either way, follow us here for a minute.
Webber, you might recall, turned out to be the biggest beneficiary of Martin’s glad-handing (since eighth grade, in fact). After NCAA gumshoes — and the feds — caught up to Martin’s scheme, all the titles, awards and honors Webber helped bring the school were vacated and he was banned from any affiliation with Michigan until 2013. It’s been an uneasy truce since.Next Page >
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