Frieder his old self after surgery - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Frieder his old self after surgery

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Posted: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 1:13 am | Updated: 2:04 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Arizona State sports information director Doug Tammaro checked his e-mail at about 11 p.m. Friday and saw a message from former basketball coach Bill Frieder.

It read:

good luck sat---im having colon cancer surgery - at mayo mon---bf.

That was it. No explanation. No details. Just Frieder being his typical blunt self, even when it comes to cancer.

Thankfully, it appears we'll be laughing at Frieder's, uh, eccentricities, for at least a few more years.

Frieder, 64, was told by his surgeon that the cancerous growth in his colon was successfully removed. The lymph nodes still need to be checked, but preliminary tests revealed the cancer had not spread to other organs.

"They don't know for sure yet, but they act like they've got it," a hoarse Frieder said Tuesday from his room at Mayo Clinic Hospital in northeast Phoenix.

Frieder, the Sun Devils' coach from 1989 to 1997, will be in the hospital until at least Thursday, but he's already making plans to fly to Las Vegas on Oct. 15 to watch the Suns play a preseason game. If there are no further complications, he plans to resume his second career as a college basketball radio and television analyst.

Cancer came right to the point with Frieder, which seems only appropriate given his remarkable lack of patience. I ate dinner with Frieder on the road once, and it took him all of four minutes to finish his soup and sandwich. He asked me why I wasn't done yet, and I tried to explain that I usually spend more time eating than I do shaving. I should have saved my breath. Frieder already had paid the check and was heading for the door.

Frieder went in for a colonoscopy on Sept. 23 — five years had passed since his previous test — and doctors discovered a growth. Nine days later, he was on the operating table.

Frieder told a few close friends he was going in for surgery. He also used his cancer to play a practical joke on an old friend.

He left a voice mail Friday for Steve Fisher, who was his successor at the University of Michigan before moving on to San Diego State.

"Fish," Frieder began. "I'm sure everything is going to go well but if it doesn't go well I've only got 72 more hours to live. So I'm going to Vegas for some wine, women and whiskey. I'm going to have one hell of a time. I'll be there all day Saturday and come back Sunday so I can fast and get ready for Monday (the surgery)."

A panicked Fisher began to change his travel schedule so he could arrange to meet Frieder in Las Vegas. When he called Frieder at home later that night his wife, Janice, answered and wanted to know what Fisher was talking about.

"It was pretty funny," Frieder said.

Since the operation, Frieder has heard from many of his friends in the coaching business, including Lute Olson, Roy Williams, Eddie Sutton and Gene Bartow. He tells them the good news, lets them know how he pulled one over on Fisher and then reminds them of something.

"All that basketball and football, it means nothing," Frieder said. "This is what it's all about. This is the most important thing: being healthy."

Listen to Scott Bordow every Monday at 1:25 p.m. on The Fan AM 1060 with Bob Kemp.

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