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    Then & Now: Fred Hare


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    Then & Now: Fred Hare

    Compiled By Dave Brandon (Photo Courtesy Fred Hare)

    Fred%20Hare.jpgFred

    Hare played at Nebraska from 1965-1966 under the late

    Joe Cipriano (1964-1980, 253-197), and is likely best

    remembered for his follow-up basket as time expired to

    beat #1 Michigan in 1965.

    A 6’2”

    “jack of all trades” forward from Omaha, Hare led the

    Huskers in scoring (15.2 PPG) and rebounding (7.4 RPG)

    in 1965, and later went onto a storied career with

    several of the Harlem teams (Clowns, Magicians, Aces,

    and Globetrotters).

    Hare is

    our latest guest in this Sunday's version of "Then &

    Now."

    HHC: Thanks

    for joining us. You are a charter member of the Nebraska

    High School Sports Hall of Fame (1994) and helped lead

    the 1963 Omaha Tech basketball team to the state

    championship. Basketball historians call that team one

    of the best of all time; agreed?

    FH:

    Absolutely. I think with a team like that, we could have

    beaten the Boston Celtics. As a matter of fact, that’s

    what Coach Neal Mosser used to tell us.  In practice

    before a game, he’d say, “You play like you do in

    practice, you’ll beat the Boston Celtics.”

    That was

    a very, very unique team, and while Neal wasn’t the

    easiest coach to get along with, he was real tough and a

    great coach. So I told the guys, “If you don’t like

    Neal, don’t play for him. Because if you don’t like him,

    we’re not going to win ball games.”

    And

    that’s the problem that we had for two years, because I

    believe that we did win it (state) in 1962 even though

    it wasn’t given to us against Lincoln Northeast. 

    HHC: Following the 1963 season, you were

    named the Nebraska High School athlete of the year by

    several publications. You ultimately chose to play

    basketball at Nebraska, but who else was recruiting you

    besides the Huskers?

    FH: All the teams in the country. There

    wasn’t a college in the United States I didn’t get an

    offer from. UCLA, Bradley, Drake, Minnesota, Oklahoma,

    Syracuse, Baylor, and even the Naval Academy. Just about

    any college you name was interested.

    HHC: What made you choose Nebraska?

    FH: Well, I didn’t have any idea that Joe

    Cipriano would be the coach when I committed. Actually,

    I signed because I thought Neal Mosser, my high school

    coach was going to get the coaching job, but at the last

    minute after I signed the contract, they decided to

    bring someone out of Idaho (Cipriano) instead of Mosser,

    who was one of the winningest coaches in Nebraska

    History.

    Another

    reason I came to Nebraska was that my mother was sick

    with cancer, diabetes, and arthritis before ultimately

    passing in 1967, but Nebraska was close to home, but not

    to close like Creighton. I grew up three blocks from

    Creighton.

    I loved

    the campus, too. Nebraska really has a beautiful campus

    and atmosphere, and there’s nothing like being in your

    home state.

    HHC: In your own words, describe Joe

    Cipriano, both as a coach and man?

    FH:

    Joe Cipriano was a great person and a great friend. He

    had problems coaching in the sense that he had such a

    diverse group of guys on the team from Chicago, New

    York, California, and Norfolk, that I don’t think he had

    the experience of coaching a lot of different

    ballplayers or of putting the right combination in. But

    on a one on one basis, Joe was a great person.

    I do

    think he was concerned a little too much of what Tippy

    Dye and the alumni would think at times, but that wasn’t

    really Joe’s fault. At the time, Nebraska would only

    allow two African-Americans out on the court at the same

    time, and it was either me and Grant Simmons, or me and

    Nate Branch, or Stu Lantz, and that kind of put a burden

    on us, because when we’d go to play Kansas or Michigan,

    they had four or five blacks on the team that were much

    bigger than us, too.

    But Joe

    had a lot of compassion for me, and I really liked him

    and his family. He was a big help to me when I

    ultimately went to try out for the Phoenix Suns a few

    years later. They had asked him why I quit at Nebraska,

    and he told them it was because of family problems, and

    ironed out any problems him and I may have had.

    HHC: Talk

    about what it was like playing in the Coliseum. Was that

    a big home court advantage, and how did it compare to

    other venues in the conference?

    FH: It was the worst in the conference, to

    be honest. The arena was cold, and we used to call it

    “The Barn.” It seemed like during practice it took you

    forever to get warmed up.

    It was

    an old hard floor with a high ceiling, and most other

    places like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri had

    beautiful, nice coliseums or gymnasiums. Our uniforms

    were the worst, too, although we were proud of them.

    But I

    loved the “Old Barn”, and it didn’t make a difference

    where we were playing, although when I was at Nebraska,

    it didn’t seem like we ever had a home court advantage.

    Rather, it seemed like the referees were always against

    us, and it seems like the crowd was. One time I was

    booed during the Michigan game, but we won it anyway, as

    you know.

    I had a

    tendency to teach the ball players to make your own home

    court advantage by being in shape, running your plays,

    and not giving the referees any problems. I never paid

    attention much to the crowd, but I could never really

    understand home court advantage. I mean, we certainly

    didn’t have one against Michigan.

    HHC: Since you bring up that Michigan

    game, lets talk about it. Your first year at Nebraska

    was spent on the freshman team in 1963-1964, and your

    first year on varsity was 1964-1965, when your team went

    10-15 (5-9, T-6th). Perhaps the biggest shot in Nebraska

    Basketball history was made by you that year, as you hit

    an over the head and backwards buzzer beating layup to

    defeat #1 Michigan and Cazzie Russell (74-73). In your

    own words, describe the last possession of that game and

    what that was like?

    FH: That was the most unique game I ever

    played in, especially in respect to the crowd, which had

    booed us earlier in the game.

    And

    during that whole week, it was in the Lincoln Journal as

    “the night of the Wolverines.” But that last shot, it

    wasn’t designated that I shoot it. I told Grant

    (Simmons) to take the ball out, and I told him that I

    was, “Going to pretend that the game is over since we

    only have 2 seconds left, and I’m just going to drop my

    hands and walk toward the Michigan basket and act like

    I’m disgusted.”

    And

    that’s the only way I knew to shake that guy (Russell),

    because he was guarding me so tough all night that they

    couldn’t hardly get the ball to me. So Grant threw the

    ball to me just a few feet away from the half court

    line, and I shot it right away with my typical high arch

    so I could see where it was going to hit and come off.

    I had a

    tendency to always follow my shots so I did that, and I

    noticed all the guys from Nebraska were standing on one

    side, and all the guys from Michigan on one side, so

    when I ran from half court, I saw a guy getting ready to

    rebound and went over him and got it before he caught

    it. And I didn’t have much time to stuff it and there

    was a hand in the way, so I just took it while in the

    air and flipped it over the back.

    That was

    so exciting and such a great way to end that game after

    the press, the fans, and even some of my own teammates

    and coaches didn’t believe we were going to win.

    HHC: Was that your favorite game at

    Nebraska?

    FH: Yeah, it was, but that’s not the best

    or favorite game I’ve ever played. I think the best was

    when I was with the Harlem Clowns in Pomona, California.

    We were

    down by 10 points one night with about 5 minutes to go,

    and I stole the ball 6 times in a row, and it was

    similar to the Michigan game. All the guys on the team

    used to call me “the Omaha Kid,” because they didn’t

    think people from Omaha could play basketball.

    And then

    there was the performance in the Phoenix camp, too,

    where I averaged 25.0 PPG and 11.0 RPG. Those three

    times between the Phoenix camp, the Pomona game, and the

    Michigan game were my most exciting.

    HHC: 1965-1966

    was your last full year with the Huskers, and the team

    finished 20-5 (12-2, 2nd) and ended its fifteen straight

    seasons of losing. What do you remember about that year?

    FH: I remember it was a dismal year,

    because some people within the program didn’t want me to

    have a knee operation I needed prior to that season

    because they felt it could keep me out longer. I ended

    up having it anyway and played with tape from head to

    toe that whole year like a warrior, and also with

    cortisone shots before each game in my knee. I gutted it

    out but it felt like some people were mad at me for

    having the surgery, which hurt my minutes.

    HHC: 1966-1967

    was your last season on the team, as you left after the

    second game at Wyoming (102-98 loss). What led to you

    leaving?

    FH:

    It was the culmination of everything, from not being

    able to play the minutes I had felt I deserved to being

    taken out of games when I felt I shouldn’t.

    I really

    enjoyed the University of Nebraska and I can tell you

    that I don’t have any bitterness. However, I certainly

    don’t think I’d do it again, but there was a guy and old

    teammate of mine from high school named Big Bob Brown

    who said, “You didn’t make a mistake by going to

    Nebraska. You just stayed too long.”

    And Neil

    Mosser, my old high school coach told me, “It doesn’t

    matter where you go, as long as you do the best you

    can.”

    Nobody

    considers me a quitter or failure because I opened up

    the way for a lot of young people, I think, and

    especially African-Americans in Omaha, from helping them

    find a place to play and practice such as churches and

    Creighton to giving them someone to look up to. 

    I had to

    perform Dave, because I played ball to get my Mother and

    siblings out of the ghetto, and I did my best and always

    gave it my all, and I think that’s why people respect me

    and don’t consider me a quitter. At least that’s what I

    hope they think.

    HHC: Have you stayed in touch with any of

    your former teammates or coaches, and do you still

    follow the program at all?

    FH: No. Matter of fact Dave, I didn’t stay

    in touch with anyone. My Mother passed on in 1967, and

    after the funeral, I sold all my belongings, took a

    plane to Mexico City, and enrolled at the University of

    Americas, which was an American team, but down there,

    you have 80% natives, and more natives on the court more

    than Americans. So it would always be 2 Mexicans and 3

    Americans.

    HHC: And where

    did you go from there?

    FH: Well, I did that for a year, and then

    I learned that I couldn’t graduate because I had to come

    back to the United States to get all my credits to

    transfer. 

    So after

    Mexico, I ended up back in the United States, and was

    eventually cut from the Phoenix Suns because nobody knew

    who I was. I literally just walked on the court there

    and wasn’t invited, so they made it a goal to shut me

    down.

    But

    during that training camp, I averaged 25/11 and they

    recruited guys to come to that camp to stop me, and by

    playing there, I opened up some doors.

    After

    the Phoenix camp, the Lakers heard of me from Neil, my

    high school coach, who knew somebody out there, and they

    wanted me to go to Dallas and play in the ABA, but I

    never went, because I was tired and didn’t feel like

    it. 

    So, I

    decided to play with the Harlem Clowns while I thought

    about what to do with my professional career, and when I

    got there, Nate Branch, my former Husker teammate and

    roommate was there.

    I did

    that and various other Harlem teams for a while, and

    then I went up to Canada and played in the Canadian

    League.

    My

    brother got killed shortly after, so I came back to the

    States for a while longer before going back to Mexico

    and playing four seasons, and then when I came back, Bob

    Cousy called me after that last game in Mexico and had

    arranged it so I was supposed to go to either Dallas and

    play in the ABA or play with the Globetrotters. But I

    decided I wanted to wait and try to come back to Omaha

    or Kansas City, since they would someday soon have a pro

    team.

    Turns

    out I got wiped out in a serious car accident in Denver,

    Colorado in 1970. I had contusions of the liver, spine

    problems, and I was all crippled up, to tell you the

    truth. After the accident, I notified the director of

    the Kansas City/Omaha Kings what had happened.

    I was 37

    at the time of the accident, and still got an offer for

    a contract to play for Kansas City, but I was so far

    behind and so tired that I didn’t do it.

    HHC: You have a new book out called "The

    Best of the Best", which is a biography about both

    basketball and life, and its available through your

    website at

    http://www.fredhare.com/. Talk about this book and

    what motivated you to write it?

    FH: I’ve always wanted to give back what I

    know. The secrets, which are really not secrets, but

    things that never cross your mind, are in there about

    basketball.

    For

    example, I always wondered why such guys as Bob Boozer

    and all the other guys that came through Omaha Tech

    never won Neil a championship. I was under the bleachers

    before I played there at their practice one day

    watching, and I could see why he didn’t. They were often

    racially divided and would fight and battle each other

    in practice. And I thought to myself, “How are you going

    to beat Benson or North when you are beating

    yourselves?”

    I also

    know that the way I added 6 inches to my vertical every

    year during high school was by wearing braces that my

    Mom had made me around my ankles. They were weights and

    held me down.

    Or the

    fact that as a kid, I wore thick rabbit gloves and my

    Mom would make me shoot around outside in the middle of

    the winter while my brothers laughed at me. I was

    horrible at shooting, but over time, when I’d take them

    off after hours of having them on, I had the keenest

    sense of touch and I could shoot extremely accurate. It

    was scary, to be honest. So I started wearing gloves and

    making everything I did harder so that it’d make it

    easier later.

    I also

    wrote the book because I wanted to give back to society

    and my fans, and as a tribute to the talent that God

    gave me.

    I wanted

    to give back and tell of all the beautiful experiences

    and haunting memories from when I played. I’ve been to

    four or five other countries, and I said, “What am I

    going to do with this now?”

    I read a book by Jerry Masters where he said that I

    wasn’t as good as my one time high school running mate

    Ronnie Boone. And that didn’t upset me, but it touched

    me. I called Jerry on the phone right away after that

    and I said, “You know the score. I thought it was

    supposed to be a high school book for athletes. Ronnie

    Boone didn’t break any records in high school, and

    neither did Bob Gibson.”

    So I

    asked him why he put that statement about me in there

    and he says, “I put that in there because I knew that

    someday, you’d read it. I had tried to reach you and

    nobody knew where you were for eight years.”

    But that

    call prompted me to realize what I had and to put it

    into words.

    In

    summary, writing that book was for the Lord, and part of

    a promise to my Mother that I’d finish college, which I

    did in part through all the writing classes I took to

    write it.

    I’d

    never opened up before, and I wanted to get my legacy on

    paper before I went to the grave, which is the richest

    place. I wanted to have these same questions asked that

    you’ve asked me today. It’s the joy of giving back.

    HHC: And I see that you are currently

    represented by Celebrity Direct Entertainment in Port

    Charlotte, Florida. That brings us to the now of "Then &

    Now." What is Fred Hare up to these days, and what are

    his plans for the future?

    FH: At this time, I spend most of my time

    in my electric wheelchair, which is fun and like a

    vehicle (Laughs). My legs have entirely gone, so I’m

    involved in artwork now.

    I’ve got

    a wonderful caregiver named Tonya Ballard, and she takes

    care of me. I had open-heart surgery about three years

    ago, I had two heart attacks in Mexico, and two of my

    sons were born in Mexico, so I was helping them out in

    the art business when that happened.

    But

    anyway, I am for the first time in my life, for the last

    two years anyway, enjoying peace and quiet, and not

    worried about any expectations from basketball or my

    children.

    I’m

    living in Denton, Texas now.

    HHC: If we set you up an e-mail account at

    fredhare@huskerhoopscentral.com , would you be

    willing to take some e-mails from our readers?

    FH: Yeah definitely, but I’ll have to have

    my caretaker type for me, but I’d love that. Send me all

    the Husker fans e-mails, I’d really appreciate it Dave

    and it’d mean a lot.

    HHC: Great! Thanks a lot for your time,

    and anything else you'd like to add?

    FH: Yes. There’s not an answer you can’t

    find in the bible. Everything I did, I did it in the

    spirit. And basketball wise, I’ve noticed that God

    didn’t make you left handed or right handed. He made an

    individual. I mean, what hand does a monkey use? He uses

    them both equally.

    I try to

    teach young people now to start at an early age, using

    your left hand, because you defend someone that’s even

    handed. There’s no defense for them.

    And one

    other thing I’d like to say is that I do appreciate the

    opportunity to talk and tell my story of things after so

    long of the record not being set straight.

    Thank you Dave for all you do.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

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