Warren Friedrichs: A Pirate for life

by Michelle Silva | Staff Writer

A basketball coach, a professor, an athletic director, a current golf coach and a Heritage Gallery Hall of Famer, Warren Friedrichs has gone above and beyond for Whitworth University.

After 31 years working for Whitworth’s athletic department Friedrichs announced his retirement at the end of the 2017 school year.

Friedrichs graduated from Concordia College with an emphasis on ministerial work, psychology, and secondary education. He was a multisport athlete and participated in baseball, basketball and golf. Friedrichs knew that he wanted to pursue a career in athletics. After his undergraduate studies he got his masters degree in physical education from Eastern Washington University. He then finished out with doctoral work in physical education administration and sport psychology.

When Whitworth hired Friedrichs as the men’s basketball head coach in 1986 he planned on setting the bar high for the team. His mindset going into the job was optimistic. Friedrichs knew he wanted to create more of a competitive environment for the team.

“You always want to shoot for the stars,” Friedrichs said “It’s important to strive for conference championships and national tournaments because it will lead to hard work.”

Friedrichs made history by leading the team to their first conference tournament appearance in 1991. He carried on the success by winning five conference championships and made three national tournament appearances.

His career highlight was the 1996 men’s basketball national championship game in Boise. Whitworth’s president at the time Bill Robinson planned on cancelling school if the men made it to the championship game, Friedrichs said.

26 games later, the team reached the championship game. President Robinson stuck to his word and proceeded to cancel school. Six buses full of Whitworth students showed up to cheer on the Pirates. There was a total of 1,000 fans there.

The packed stands brought tears to his eyes, Friedrichs said.

Although the Pirates lost in overtime it was a game that he will never forget. In the end it’s the people that matter the most in athletics, said Friedrichs. The same 1996 men’s basketball team is in the Heritage Hall of Fame.

The secret to Friedrichs’ coaching philosophy is allowing student-athletes the freedom to be themselves on the field or on the court. It’s important to not complicate things and to keep the game as simple as possible, he said.

“You don’t want your players to play in fear,” Friedrichs said. That’s what set the 1996 Hall of Fame men’s basketball team apart from the rest. They were playing freely, he said.

Current men’s head basketball coach Matt Logie was hired by Friedrichs in 2010. Logie said that one of the first things that he noticed about Friedrichs was his ability to fill people up.

“He was a walking confidence booster that really made people feel good about themselves and what they could accomplish together at Whitworth,” Logie said. “He did things the right way and that has allowed our program to stay highly connected with our alumni.”

Logie also stated that Coach Friedrichs was detail oriented and “fundamentally sound” on the basketball court. The men’s basketball team has tried to continue Friedrich’s legacy of creating lifelong relationships within the Pirate community, Logie said.

On top of his success on the basketball court, Friedrichs also contributed to Whitworth’s golf program since 2002. Back then the program was limited in resources and facilities. In Friedrichs’ 14 years of managing the program, he has made a lot of changes.

Whitworth’s athletic director at the time Scott McQuilkin asked Friedrichs to reinstate the golf program. Friedrichs ended up turning it into a varsity level sport. Not only did he relaunch the men’s golfing program, but he also created Whitworth’s first ever women’s golf team all within the same year.

James Carroll is a senior on the men’s golf team. After three years playing for Coach Friedrichs, he’s taken away the importance of building strong relationships with others, he said. It’s never a one-way street for Friedrichs because he cares for everybody.

“His door is always open if we have to talk, even if it’s not about golf,” Carroll said.

When asked what he’ll miss the most about Whitworth University Friedrichs said he’s going to miss the students and faculty . “Now as I’m finished I reflect back on all the people that have been involved and put their heart and soul into it,” Friedrichs said.

Sometimes when he’s on his way to drop his grandson off at a preschool off-campus he automatically turns into Whitworth, Friedrichs said.

“It’s just an instinct” Friedrichs said. “This place is my second home.”

Friedrichs said there’s no doubt that he’ll stick around to continue supporting Whitworth’s athletic program. Until then he has one last season to finish strong.

“I’m going out full speed,” Friedrichs said.

To support Friedrichs’ last season check out the men’s golf schedule for upcoming matches.

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