When someone says Dave Fredrickson's name, everyone around the state immediately thinks of basketball. So what was he doing with that field hockey stick in his hand?

We will get to that stick in a minute, but how could you not think of basketball? It was a coaching run from 1963 through 1999 that produced 505 victories, eight state championships and 10 title game appearances.

His list of accomplishments has landed him in the New England Basketball Hall of Fame and the Vermont Principals' Association Hall of Fame.

And the beat goes on even after retiring almost 20 years ago. He is still heavily involved in the game as executive director of the Vermont Basketball Coaches Association, running the annual all-star game and putting on the coaches clinic each year.

His name is just as readily associated with Mount Anthony as it is basketball, for it is there where he won all those state titles and steered the Patriots to plenty of success in the old New England Tournament.

But there is another school and other sports.

A football guy originally, he got a taste of working with a high school basketball program in West Springfield, Massachusetts, as part of his student teaching assignment.

He enjoyed it so much that his first job after graduating Springfield College was coaching basketball and teaching physical education at Arlington.

"They were 2-18 the year before. I said, 'Hell, I can do that,'" Fredrickson said.

He did more than that. The Eagles won the Molly Stark League title all four of his years there.

Then the girls at Arlington told Fredrickson they needed a field hockey coach.

He knew nothing about the game, but he did know that if he was going to coach anything he would not do it halfway.

"I told them that the best players would start regardless of what class they were in. That was revolutionary back then," Fredrickson said. "And I told them that we would not leave the practice field before the boys soccer team did. One thing I found out was that the girls wanted to get better just as the boys did."

Those Molly Stark basketball championships were his ticket to Mount Anthony. One of the attractions of the Bennington school was that it would get him back into football.

But he didn't stay with football long. It was quickly evident that basketball was where he belonged.

The Patriots became the scourge of Vermont. Five of the 10 state crowns came in a row.

That incredible run began with a 71-68 win over Rice in the Division I state championship game in 1988 and then, with "Strive for Five" as the team motto, concluded with a 56-51 victory over Colchester in the 1992 title game.

The team that pulled off the fifth consecutive crown might not have been comprised of the greatest players but it was one that embodied the best characteristics of the team concept.

"We rotated players in and out, there were no egos. We introduced six starters that year. You probably couldn't do that today," Fredrickson said.

The three title teams in the 1970s fought their way to the finals in the New Englands, one of them losing in the title game to Providence Central at the buzzer at Bangor Auditorium.

Dave Kinsman probably coached as many games against Fredrickson as anyone between his stints at Mount St. Joseph and Rutland High.

Kinsman believes Fredrickson's mastery of instituting a system was a big piece of his success.

"It was about the continuity of coaches in the program. He had the same coaches for seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th grades for 35 years," Kinsman said. "He didn't have to spend extra time on the fundamentals when the players got to him. It was a system.

"You knew they were going to be man-to-man and physical. They were a lot like Duke. Dave is a good friend of coach (Mike) Krzyzewski. Dave worked his camps and they played just like his Duke teams. They ran very few plays, just a good motion offense."

Fredrickson has frequently been asked who is the greatest player he has coached. One of his players once advised him not to answer that question to avoid alienating many of those who have worn the Patriot uniform. He has heeded that advice.

But when asked about top players that his teams have played against he quickly put out two names: Rutland's Jim McCaffrey and Rice's Keith Cieplicki.

"John Mahar (an MAU player) was playing in the Alhambra game (the all-star contest against New Hampshire) and he had McCaffrey on one side of him and Cieplicki on the other and he had to decide who to pass to. He was pretty happy. Those two were pretty damn good," Fredrickson said.

Fredrickson's 36 years of coaching high school basketball included seasons before the 3-point stripe was painted on gym floors in 1987-88.

Recently, Dave and his wife Lorraine had their annual family holiday gathering where they play trivia. Dave asked what Mount Anthony player made the program's first 3-point field goal. Daughter Carrie knew the answer: It was Dave Levesque, who went on to have an outstanding basketball career at Plymouth State.

That was a good memory of the holiday season. A not-so-good one came in a cross country ski race when the 77-year-old Fredrickson broke his collarbone at Prospect Mountain.

He normally hits the cross country ski trails every day of the winter but this injury has him out of commission for another five weeks.

He should be back to 100 percent by the time the VBCA's day-long basketball extravaganza rolls around in March.

That day, billed as a Celebration of Basketball, has become the most visible VBCA event each year after the season wraps up.

Fans pack Windsor's spacious gym for the Saturday that features four North-South senior all-star games. The event also includes numerous awards highlighted by the VBCA's Mr and Mrs. High School Basketball Player of the Year as well as the Dream Dozen, players selected who figure to have the biggest impact when they return the next season.

Fredrickson retired early from teaching. He said he was 58 or 59.

He still loved coaching, but the teaching was wearing on him. He did not like the atmosphere around the building at the time.

He took over the VBCA at the behest of former Bellows Falls boys basketball coach Bill Murphy.

"Murph said that we needed an old retired guy to run the all-star games," Fredrickson said.

He oversees the all-star games, but he has also turned the organization into a well-oiled machine bent on making basketball better in Vermont.

One of its most appreciated components is its website that boasts lists of 1,000-point scorers and players who have achieved 40-point games.

Fredrickson hands out many of the awards on the big day in Windsor and dresses to the nines for the occasion. His attire includes his signature cowboy boots.

Vermont coaches, players, fans and officials hope that when it comes to basketball, Dave Fredrickson never gets out of the saddle.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @RHSportsGuy

tom.haley@rutlandherald.com

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