When Pete Froedden joined the Lipscomb coaching staff he did so with a five-year plan.
After five years as a Division I assistant, he intended to take the reins of a men’s basketball program.
Year Five wrapped two months ago.
Right on schedule, Froedden has thrown his name into the hat for at least one head coaching vacancy. He recently interviewed for the opening at Lipscomb, where he was a star point guard and has served as interim head coach since Scott Sanderson’s resignation on April 9.
“I want to be a head coach,” Froedden said on Monday. “[Athletic director] Philip Hutcheson knows I want to be a head coach. When I came here five years ago, I came with the idea that I was going to be an assistant probably no more than five years. Then it was important to me to be a head coach whether it is at this level or back on the high school level or what direction God would take me.”
The biggest obstacle for the 44-year-old will be to shake the stigma of being connected to Sanderson, who resigned after 14 years. The Bisons have suffered back-to-back losing seasons, stumbled in Atlantic Sun Conference play and have fallen way behind crosstown rival Belmont in terms of local mid-major basketball relevance.
On the current staff, only Froedden and Shaun Senters, also a former Lipscomb point guard, remain. Ryan Cahak took a job as an assistant at Kennesaw State shortly after Sanderson left.
Hutcheson, Froedden’s former teammate, might opt to go outside of the current staff in search of a fresh start. Current LSU director of basketball operations Tom Kelsey, a former Lipscomb player and assistant, also has been interviewed.
“Obviously that’s the elephant in the room for me,” Froedden said. “You have to take me at who I am. … If you knew my basketball background and you look at that, you might find something that really appeals to the direction you want you’re program to go in. I think that is more of who I am.
"I’m not coach Sanderson. I’m not Don Meyer. I’m Pete Froedden. I’m going to do it the way I think it needs to be done if given that opportunity. But I also understand the political climate of making that hire too. I get that. I’m not naïve to that.”
Froedden, who moved to Erin, Tenn., from the Bronx in high school, also has a deep understanding of Lipscomb basketball.
He enjoyed one of the best careers by anyone who ever put on a Bisons uniform, scoring 1,053 points and contributing to 147-14 record from 1987-91.
Along with his Lipscomb pedigree, Froedden points to his connection with the current roster as a plus. Since 2008, he has been on staff and has worked closely with the guards
He recruited most of the current players and helped keep anyone from transferring since Sanderson’s resignation. Both guard John Ross Glover transferred to Lehigh and center Oscar Garcia left with the desire to play for a Division II school before Sanderson stepped down.
Froedden also pointed to his knowledge of the local high school basketball scene, his experience in the Atlantic Sun and the management he honed as a head coach and athletic director.
“My interest level is off the charts,” Froedden said. “Having an opportunity to play here at Lipscomb in the old glory days, it has always been home for me. Coming back here as an assistant has been tremendous but I’ve always thought of myself as a head coach. … I’ve done it for 14 years and I feel like I’ve done it well. I’ve always wanted to go back and be a head coach. Obviously, this would be the cherry on the top, being the head coach at Lipscomb, where I’ve played and I’ve learned so much and I have so much pride in this institution and program. That’s obviously a no-brainer for me.”
Almost 20 years ago, Meyer offered his former pupil a spot on his coaching staff at Lipscomb.
Froedden instead chose to start his coaching career on the high school level. He has headed up four prep programs — all in Tennessee. After he served as a graduate assistant at Austin Peay, he coached at Hillsboro for four years. He then went to Harding Academy in Memphis for six years and also was that school's athletic director. He spent two years apiece at Dyer County and Sycamore High. In all, he won four district regular-season championships and was named the district coach of the year twice.
When Sanderson came calling in 2008, Froedden couldn’t pass up the opportunity this time to return to Lipscomb. Five years later, he is ready to be a head coach again and would love to stay put.
“I believe in Philip Hutcheson and I believe in this institution and know they will find the right person for the job,” Froedden said. “I can’t say enough about how good this place has been to me. A lot of people probably in my position would look at this job and not getting a job they aspire to have and have hard feelings. But obviously, for me, this place is such a tremendous place. Sure, you’d be disappointed if you didn’t get it but at the same time you’ll always be a Bison.”