Sunday, August 27, 2006

Grambling greats: Fred Hobdy

Grambling's Hobdy never lost his focus on life after basketball

July 13, 2005

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Fred Hobdy's players at Grambling would find themselves still huffing and puffing from drills, when he'd abruptly switch the subject.

There was more to life, the late coach would say, than just basketball.

"He wanted all of us to grow up to be productive citizens," said current GSU coach Larry Wright, the Southwestern Athletic Conference's 1975-76 Player of the Year under Hobdy. "He used to say that all the time: 'Basketball is not going to last forever.' He would always talk about that. When you first came, he made sure that you understand that basketball was a means to an education."

Wright would later win the 1978 NBA title with the Washington Bullets before returning to coach in the same office where Hobdy once sat.

"He was tough as coach; don't get me wrong," said Wright. "He worked your butt off. But at the end of the day, when you needed him, it was all together different."

Often times, Wright said, life lessons would come just after one of Hobdy's now-legendary practices — sweat-drenched affairs that stressed preparation and conditioning.

"He would be drilling you, running you like there is no more tomorrows, but afterwards if you had a problem he would switch hats," Wright said. "Instead of your coach, he became your father — so understanding of the problem, whatever it might have been. There was no way you could think a guy who had just been screaming at the top of his voice do that, but he did. I will always remember that."

Wright, whose voice colors with emotion at the very mention of his mentor, continues to lobby in the hopes that the basketball arena being constructed on campus will be named after Hobdy.

"I could say so many things about Coach Hobdy," said Wright. "When you start talking about the people who built Grambling," Wright mused, "you have to say (former football coach) Eddie Robinson. You have to say (former school president) R.W.E. Jones. I think you also have to say Fred Hobdy. He should be mentioned in the same breath."

Lessons in Leadership
This was another in our series profiling legendary coaches from around the area, and the effects they had on the athletic field and on their players' lives after the games ended.

About Fred Hobdy
Hobdy, a member of the Louisiana Sports and Southwestern Athletic Conference halls of fame, is rightly remembered for his contributions as a basketball genius. After all, he remains the winningest college coach in Louisiana with 572 victories between 1957-86. His teams won seven Southwestern Athletic Conference titles and the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association championship in 1961 - the last men's national title from this state. But that's not the full measure of Hobdy's legacy. A three-sport letter winner at Grambling, he later served as athletics director before passing in 1998. He's perhaps best known as a collegiate athlete for his contribution to a legendary 1942 squad that went unbeaten, even unscored upon, under Eddie Robinson.

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GSU fans want new arena to be Hobdy
January 28, 2005

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Grambling State University's Fred Hobdy won more college basketball games than any coach in Louisiana history.

It's only fitting, some fans and former players say, to put his name on GSU's new multi-purpose basketball facility.

"I love the idea of a Fred Hobdy Arena," said Michael Watson of Sicily Island, a 1977 graduate of GSU. "Coach was a winner."

Hobdy posted 572 wins, with 288 losses, over 30 seasons from 1956-86. His 1961 squad, paced by Basketball Hall of Famer Willis Reed, won the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association championship.

"I think naming the arena for Coach Hobdy is a great idea," said Reed, now vice president of basketball operations with the NBA's New Orleans Hornets. "Coach Hobdy spent his whole life there. He loved Grambling. He was a black-and-gold guy."

A member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference and Louisiana Sports halls of fame, Hobdy died on Dec. 8, 1998.

State Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Grambling, said naming school buildings after deceased individuals is handled through the University of Louisiana System Board. GSU president Horace Judson would need to write a letter of request to the board, Gallot said.

Former University of Louisiana at Monroe president Lawson Swearingen went through the same process in December 1999 when long-time Indians coach Lenny Fant's name was added to Ewing Coliseum on campus.

"Coach Hobdy is one of the winningest coaches in history, and a legend in basketball. There wouldn't be anyone moredeserving," said Gallot, who remembered attending Hobdy's summer camps "from the time I could dribble a ball — until I realized that I wasn't much of an athlete. He had an impact on so many people's lives, including my own."

Judson was out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment. Sally Clausen, president of the ULS, was also traveling and could not be reached.

"It would be an injustice and a disservice to name the arena after anyone other than Fred Hobdy," said current GSU coach Larry Wright, the SWAC's 1975-76 Player of the Year under Hobdy.

Jean Bush, a 1980 GSU graduate, added, "It's a fantastic idea to honor one of the legends that helped build the institution."

The long-delayed plan for a new basketball facility began during the tenure of GSU's second president, Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, in the 1970s. But the idea didn't pick up steam until 1994, when legislation was finally passed to issue $1 million in bonds.

Hobdy never saw the ground-breaking ceremonies. Another decade passed before $17 million in top-priority bonds was approved in 2004 to fund construction, with another $6.75 million set aside for use when needed.

"If there is anybody that I know of who it should be named after, it was him," said Rayville basketball coach Larry Wilson, who played in high school for Herschel West — one of Hobdy's best guards — and then for Hobdy at GSU.

Nicknamed "Lefty," Hobdy coached 26 All-Americans and his teams won seven SWAC championships. Along with the 1961 NAIA title, Hobdy's teams also earned two Midwest Conference championships, two NCAA regional championships and four NAIA district titles. Half of his 30 squads won 20 or more games, and two won 30 or more.

Basketball, however, wasn't the total measure of Hobdy's legacy at GSU.

He was an assistant on the baseball and football teams, and served as athletic director at GSU from August 1989 until September 1996.

Hobdy was a member of former football coach Eddie Robinson's legendary 1942 squad before leaving school to fight in World War II. That year, the Tigers not only finished undefeated, but were unscored against. The Winnfield native even played baseball for Jones.

"Coach Hobdy did so many significant things — and he did it while playing at Grambling and then coaching at Grambling," said Reed, who later won two NBA titles with the New York Knicks. "Naming the building after him would be a great tribute to a man who gave so much to the school."

The arena, now under construction behind Robinson Stadium on campus, is projected to open in the spring of 2006.

Produced by the Shreveport-based Newman Marchive Partnership, the original architectural plans call for a 7,705-seat athletic and academic facility. It's designed to house the women and men's basketball programs, as well as health, physical education and recreation departments — and would also serve as a multi-purpose assembly center for the university and surrounding community. Seating capacity would expand to approximately 9,000 during non-sporting events.

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Former GSU great Reed kicks off Hobdy endowment

September 26, 2005

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Former Grambling State University coach and athletics director Fred Hobdy coached 26 All-Americans and the last national championship by a men's basketball team from Louisiana in 1961.

Still, a group led by Hobdy's widow wants to make sure that he's remembered for more than those fading banners hanging on gymnasium rafters.

The Fred Hobdy Endowed Professorship in Education, endorsed by Mary Hobdy, has been established to supplement salaries and provide faculty support for research.

"'Hob' loved Grambling," said Mary Hobdy, whose husband died Dec. 8, 1998. "When the idea came up, I was really thrilled that his name will continue in perpetuity at this university."

The endowment recognizes a long-overlooked facet of contribution by Hobdy — who served 30 years as basketball coach, then later as athletics director through 1996.

"We all know about his success as a basketball coach," said Larry Wright, a late 1970s player who now coaches the men's team at GSU. "He was also a teacher for 30 years or better, a guy that worked in health fitness and education department for years. I think it's long overdue."

An important lead gift from Willis Reed — the Pro Basketball Hall of Famer who scored 2,280 career points for Hobdy in the early 1960s — has kicked off a fund drive to support the endowment.

"The fact that Willis Reed is working with it is a great thrill," said Mary Hobdy, also secretary to former GSU president R.W.E. Jones from 1956-77. "He was one of greatest players that 'Hob' coached, and a great person and humanitarian.

"I hope that it will inspire people and the players who came after to participate also."

GSU organizers hope to make a $60,000 donation at the February annual endowment ceremony on campus. The Louisiana Education Quality Support Fund, established by the state, would provide $40,000 in matching funds to create the professorship, said Ulysses Tucker Jr., annual fund director and major gifts officer.

The principal of this endowment, managed under guidelines set by the University of Louisiana System's Board of Regents, is never invaded, Tucker said. Funds are reinvested each year to provide growth as a hedge against inflation.

Reed, an executive of the New Orleans Hornets, said, "That's a new legacy, one that will also live as long as a university lives."

A standout with the NBA's New York Knicks in the early 1970s, Reed said he became involved in an effort to recognize both Coach Hobdy and his wife.

"It's honoring a person who was very significant to me and all of us, but also Mrs. Hobdy. She was our biggest fan, really enjoyed basketball," he said.

Hobdy squads, in addition to winning the 1961 NAIA title, also earned two championships in the Midwest Conference that Grambling called home before joining the SWAC, along with two NCAA regional championships and four NAIA district titles.

Fifteen of his 30 GSU teams won 20 or more games. Two won 30 or more.

That’s perhaps kept his past performers humble. Still, it’s hard to argue that the involvement of a player of Reed’s stature doesn’t create considerable buzz around these new fundraising efforts.
Hard for everyone but Reed.

“I’m just one of the boys who played for him,” Reed said. “Coach Hobdy had some great players. Over time, that would include Hershel West, probably one of the greatest basketball players to never play pro.”

In fact, Hobdy still holds the men’s hoops record for career victories in this state — despite retiring nearly 20 seasons ago.

As time passed, Wright — who left Grambling as a junior first-round draft pick then won the 1978 NBA title with Washington — was sadded that Hobdy might never again get the chance to influence young lives. Now, it appears that he could.

“I hope this is way that his name will be etched in stone forever,” said Wright, a longtime proponent of naming a basketball facility now under construction on campus after Hobdy. “I say this without hesitation: There has never lived a more loyal Gramblinite than Fred Hobdy. Never. Unconditionally.”

For Mrs. Hobdy, hearing Wright’s and Reed's fond memories serves as both tribute and sweet reminiscence.

“I would think about that, and the tears that I would cry would tears of joy at the contribution that he had made — even to those who weren’t stars,” she said. “The students that will be helped from (this endowment) will serve as a continuation of that, of everything ‘Hob’ was about.”

Working on the endowment has girded her through difficult treatments for cancer — an illness Mrs. Hobdy is determined to hold at bay until this tribute is made to her husband.

“I’m an optimistic person,” she said, “but I don’t think I have to be so great an optimist to see that this will one day happen. I just hope to be there.”

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Resolution drafted to name GSU arena after Hobdy

July 30, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — A Grambling State history professor has drafted a resolution asking that the university's new arena be named for former basketball coach Fred Hobdy. Next, Jimmy McJamerson will begin pressing school and state officials on the issue.

"The legacy is all inclusive, in the sense that he was a contributor at every level — as a teacher, an administrator and certainly as a basketball and football coach," McJamerson said. "He helped build the winning tradition at Grambling."

Hobdy, a member of both the Louisiana Sports and Southwestern Athletic Conference halls of fame, is rightly remembered for his contributions as a basketball genius. After all, he remains the winningest college coach in Louisiana with 572 victories between 1957-86. His teams won seven Southwestern Athletic Conference titles and the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association championship in 1961 — the last men's national title from this state.

But that's not the full measure of Hobdy's legacy at Grambling, McJamerson reminds. A three-sport letter winner at Grambling, Hobdy was a member of that legendary 1942 football squad that went unbeaten, even unscored upon, under Eddie Robinson. He later served as assistant football coach with Robinson and then athletics director before passing in 1998.

One of Hobdy's enduring dreams was a new basketball arena, a project that lingered as an idea from the late 1970s until very recently. Construction is nearing completion on the 135,000-square-foot facility, which will be capable of seating 7,500 for sports events and as many as 9,000 for other occasions.

"That building deserves to be named in his honor for the tremendous number of things he did to build the Grambling legacy throughout the nation and also throughout the world," McJamerson said.

His resolution reads, in part: "We earnestly recommend to Dr. Horace A. Judson, President of Grambling State University, and the Louisiana Board of Supervisors for State Colleges and Universities that the new assembly building be named in honor of Coach Fredrick C. Hobdy as a fitting tribute to this Son of the Black and Gold."

Former players and members of the Hobdy family hailed McJamerson's efforts as long-overdue recognition.

"It would be quite fitting for a basketball arena named after Coach Hobdy to stand next to the stadium named for Coach Robinson; they worked so closely together," said former player Larry Wright, now the GSU men's coach. "I could say so many things about Coach Hobdy."

Wright, the Southwestern Athletic Conference's 1975-76 Player of the Year under Hobdy, has consistently lobbied for naming the facility in his mentor's honor.

So has nephew William Hobdy, himself a former GSU basketball player.

"Fred Hobdy was one of the building pillars, along with Robinson and (legendary former president R.W.E. 'Prez') Jones," William Hobdy said. "His many accomplishments speak for themselves. Look at the record: If not for the giant shadow cast by Robinson, his name might be even more esteemed by Grambling's faithful."

Each mentioned not just Hobdy's accomplishments on the basketball court, but also the way he continued to provide support and guidance to students long after their playing days where done.
"Even in death he is still the winningest basketball coach in the state of Louisiana; no one is even close to his record," McJamerson said. "To add to that, he promised his players, even after they finished at Grambling, all they had to do was pick up the phone and call him and he would be there. He lived up to that promise, as a man of his word. He was a mentor when they needed him later. That speaks to the nature of the man. I have nothing but love and respect for him."

About the resolution
Grambling State history professor Jimmy McJamerson has drafted a resolution urging school and state officials to name the new basketball arena on campus in honor of former coach Fred Hobdy.

The resolution makes for a dramatic retelling of one of the school's most important coaching and administrative pioneers.

Included is recognition of Hobdy's stints as high school basketball coach at GSU, Peabody High and Grambling High, as well as teaching and administrative positions that included physical education instructor, men's and women's basketball coach, assistant football coach, assistant athletic director and AD.

The resolution also notes that Hobdy was named conference coach of the year six times, coached 26 All-America honorees and sent 16 players to the professional ranks.

McJamerson asks that anyone wishing to sign the resolution, or with questions about it, call him at 254-5067 or send an e-mail to

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