Frederick took chance hiring Williams
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bob Frederick, who took criticism for hiring an obscure assistant named Roy Williams as Kansas basketball coach and later helped create the Big 12 Conference, died Friday night following a bicycling accident. He was 69.
An accomplished cyclist, Frederick was riding on a city street in Lawrence, Kan., near the campus Thursday evening when he hit a pothole, flew over the handlebars and struck the pavement. He was taken by helicopter to the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., with massive head injuries.
He died at University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., according to family spokeswoman Kelly Hale.
"As fine a man as could possibly be, that was Bob Frederick," Williams told The Associated Press from his home in North Carolina.
Frederick also served as chairman of the Division I men's basketball committee and was one of the key figures in writing the rules and bylaws when the Big Eight Conference merged with four Texas schools in 1996 to form the Big 12.
"We would like to thank our family and friends for their love and support during this difficult time," Frederick's family said in a statement. "As an educator, coach and athletic director, our father touched many lives. He always wanted to live a life that mattered, and he did."
A former Kansas basketball player, Frederick became Kansas athletic director in 1987, a year before the Jayhawks won the NCAA championship. When Larry Brown resigned as head coach shortly afterward, Dean Smith suggested that Frederick speak with the No. 2 assistant on his North Carolina staff. A few weeks later, even though dozens of successful, established head coaches were practically begging for a chance to join the defending national champions, Frederick opted for the unproven Williams.
Many fans and alumni were outraged. But Kansas was the winningest program in the decade of the 1990s and Williams was on his way to induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"I told him many times, 'Bob, that was the biggest gamble I can remember any athletic director ever taking,"' said Williams, who has won two national championships at North Carolina since leaving Kansas in 2003. "I wasn't even the consensus choice in my own household, probably, much less for the Kansas people.
"I know it changed my life. I don't know where I would be right now, but I know I would not have experienced the great things that I've experienced if it hadn't been for Bob Frederick and his resolve."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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