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    Then & Now: Fred Hecox

    Then & Now: Fred Hecox

    Compiled By Dave Brandon


    Hecox played for Nebraska from 1945-1946, and was

    coached by both the late A.J. Lewandowski (1941-1945,

    24-63) and L.F. Klein (1945-1946 season, 7-13).

    Hecox, a

    5’10” point guard from Cozad, is our latest guest in

    this Sunday's "Then & Now" feature.

    HHC: Thanks

    for joining us. Did you ever think you'd get an

    interview about Nebraska basketball again?

    FH: I sure didn’t. It’s been awhile, quite


    HHC: Well it’s

    great to talk to you! What was your high school career

    in Cozad like?

    FH: Well, we weren’t state champions or

    anything, but we won about 50%, I suppose, of our games.

    HHC: How much

    has basketball changed since back then?

    FH: One of the big things is of course the

    three-point shot. And they were very strict on us

    palming the ball back then, and these guys get away with

    murder today with that ball and changing directions.

    They used to call us for palming the ball if you ever

    rolled your hand over the ball, so that is a big one.

    And of course the guys are so much better shooters than

    we were.

    HHC: What made you choose to play

    basketball at Nebraska?

    FH: I was going to dental school there at

    the time, and I was in the service, but they sent me

    back to Nebraska to complete my dentistry, and that’s

    when I went out for basketball.

    I remember going over and watching them practice, and

    decided I could make the team, so I went down and talked

    to the coach (A.J. Lewandowski) and he said, “Where were

    you when we had tryouts?” And I said, “I was busy in

    dentistry, and I’ve been watching you practice and I

    think I can make the team.” So he tried me out, and I

    ended up playing.

    HHC: Your first season at Nebraska was

    1944-1945, and the team went 2-17 (1-9, 6th), although

    you did beat Kansas (home, 59-45). What do you remember

    about that game?


    Well, I guess it made it a successful season to beat the

    Jayhawkers. I think they had Charlie Black back then,

    but I can’t remember, for sure (Editors Note: They did).

    He was the center for KU, and I think that’s right, but

    I’m not sure. But Kansas was the best in our conference

    back then, them and Oklahoma.

    HHC: 1944-1945 was the last year for Coach

    A.J. Lewandowski. Did you guys have a good idea that he

    would be replaced at the end of the season, or did it

    come as a surprise to you?

    FH: Gosh, I don’t know what to think about

    that. I guess we weren’t too surprised.

    HHC: What was he like as a man?

    FH: He was a fine fella. I don’t know how

    good of a coach he was. You hate to knock anybody, but

    we had cooperation with him. No dissention, and he was a

    good man.

    HHC: As a basketball coach, what did he

    believe in?

    FH: Well, we had the same stuff as today.

    We ran a zone and man-to-man on defense. We did a lot of

    rotations back and forth.

    HHC: What came of him after he left

    Nebraska, and when did he ultimately pass?

    FH: He was a business manager, I think. He

    became in charge of the tickets at the football stadium.

    And I don’t know how long he was there, but at least two

    or three years, I know. I don’t know what happened to

    him after that.

    HHC: 1945-1946

    was your last year at Nebraska, and the team went 7-13

    (3-7, T-4th) under first year coach L.F. Klein. What do

    you remember most about that last year?

    FH: I remember mainly after the season. I

    had to decide if I was there to play basketball or go to

    dental school. And, I knew I could never make a living

    playing basketball, so I decided to pursue dentistry,

    because I was spending so much time on the road and

    missing so much class that it made it difficult to

    complete my dentistry.

    I was in

    the Navy, assigned to Nebraska, and they would only give

    me a 48-hour pass. And so sometimes we’d go by train on

    our road trips, and I’d only be able to go to one game

    before coming back.

    HHC: Really?

    So you’d miss one of the games and come back alone?

    FH: Yeah. Sometimes we’d go down to Kansas

    or Oklahoma, and it’d be two games, and I’d only be able

    to go to one because of my pass.

    HHC: Wow! I never knew that. Do you

    remember where L.F. Klein came from, and what his

    background with basketball was?

    FH: Gosh, we used to call him “Pop Klein”.

    I’m not just sure where he was from. Things were pretty

    tough with the war on, and you just didn’t have coaches

    like you normally had. And they just kind of filled in

    for both football and basketball.


    I’m not much help for you.

    HHC: No, you

    are doing great!


    One thing I do remember about Klein was that he just

    kind of filled in. I think football was his main sport,

    and they needed a basketball coach, so they put him in.

    He was very well liked.

    HHC: What was

    the reason for him only serving as Head Coach for one



    I don’t know for sure. I think he was just more or less

    filling in for that one year due to the hardships of the

    war and us needing a coach.

    HHC: What came

    of him after he left Nebraska, and when did he

    ultimately pass?

    FH: I can’t remember. He was at Kearney

    for a while, I know. Whether he was at Kearney first or

    went afterward, I’m not sure, but I believe he was

    there. I believe Nebraska was the only basketball job he

    ever had, though.

    HHC: Besides

    missing some games on road trips, how did the war affect

    college basketball for you?

    FH: Well, of course you would be drafted,

    and actually I enlisted in the reserves so I could

    finish out the (second) year.


    before I was at Nebraska, I went to Miami (Ohio) for my

    pre-dental work, and then came back to the university

    after I got into dental school.

    That was

    before basketball. I had a year of pre-dental at

    Nebraska, and then I went back to Miami (Ohio) for three

    semesters. So I started playing basketball after my

    three semesters at Miami (Ohio).

    HHC: So when

    you decided to quit basketball, you could have played


    FH: Yes. Actually, I had 2 or 3 more years of

    eligibility, because they didn’t count the times you

    were in the service. But like I said, I knew I couldn’t

    make a living playing basketball, and so I just had to

    tell coach I had to quit. So much of the work in

    dentistry was demonstrations, and it was very difficult

    to make it up, and then I had to go to class every

    afternoon. So I’d be trotting up on the floor many times

    and the coach would say, “Let’s call it a night.”

    HHC: Which coach did you like playing for


    FH: Klein. I played more under him. I was

    a reserve the first year. And the middle of the year, I

    came up to the varsity. And the next year, I played

    varsity the whole year. So I played more the second year

    under Klein.

    HHC: Talk about some of your teammates

    from back then, and what kind of players they were?

    FH: Well, there was Joe Brown, James

    Sandstedt, Donald Barry, Gayle Lebsack, Bob Korte, Chuck

    Mulvaney, Leo Schneider, and Robert Koenig. We didn’t

    have a lot of height back then.


    down low, Donald Barry was out of Norfolk, and he was

    the center. Bob Korte also played center, and I think

    Bob went on to Kearney after he played to the

    university, and then was a referee in Arizona.


    Sandstedt was a forward, and Joe Brown played both

    forward and guard. Leo Schneider was from Iowa, and went

    back and played for Iowa State after the war, and he

    also played center. Chuck Mulvaney played power forward,

    and he was a Benson Bunny, I can always remember that.

    He was quite the character, and a very nice guy.


    Lebsack was out on the perimeter, and he was a good

    shooter. I would say the same thing about Robert Koenig,

    just a good shooter.

    HHC: Did you stay in touch with any of

    them after your times at UNL?

    FH: Well, Joe Brown was in Lexington, and

    I think he got hit by a train, but I’m not sure. So, I

    didn’t have too much contact with most of them, because

    most of them were out of state.

    HHC: What was the biggest play or shot

    that you made while at Nebraska?

    FH: Oh gee. The one I remember most of

    all, I went in for a lay-up with seconds to play at

    Missouri during my first year (1944-1945). The game was

    tied, we were in the second overtime, and I drove in for

    a bucket, and they knocked me clear off of the floor,

    and while I was waiting for them to call a foul, they

    went down and scored a basket and I never got a foul

    called, so we lost the game (February 17, 1945, Missouri

    55-54, 2 OT).

    HHC: Wow, that sounds like the officiating

    Nebraska basketball still gets today.


    (Laughs) Yeah.

    HHC: What was it like playing in the


    FH: Well, that’s all we knew, so we didn’t

    think of it as the barn until it got a few years later,

    and it just kind of became the barn. It was just open,

    and big. The fans were great. The home team always had

    an advantage.

    HHC: Was

    basketball as popular as football back then?


    No, I don’t think we ever were, and I don’t think it

    ever will be. Of course that was before (Bob) Devaney,

    so I could sit almost anywhere in the stadium, I can

    remember that. Football was king, though, and of course

    not like now, but it was still king.

    HHC: What are

    your favorite memories, both on and off the court?


    I think playing basketball was the big thing.


    funny thing is that I can remember some of the guys on

    the team were older than just freshman, since they had

    been in the service and were coming back. Some of them

    smoked, and they used to get me to go talk to the coach

    and keep him busy so they could get a smoke. And I was

    supposed to talk to him and keep him busy so he didn’t

    know about it (Laughs).

    HHC: (Laughs)

    Did they ever find out?

    FH: No, he never found out (Laughs).

    HHC: (Laughs)

    That’s hilarious. What else do you remember?


    I can remember playing in four overtime games, and we

    didn’t win one. I don’t like to remember that so well


    HHC: (Laughs).

    Finally, what have you been up to the last sixty years,

    and where will we find you today?

    FH: I’m in Cozad, Nebraska, and I’m a

    retired dentist. I enjoy watching my grandsons play

    ball. One of them plays for Kearney, and I did go to the

    finals of the Class A Tournament. They had two wins, but

    in the semifinals lost.


    yeah, I practiced in Cozad, except for an interruption

    in the Navy during the Korean War, when I went in as a

    dentist, since I was in the reserve and they called me

    up. And the rest of the time I’ve been in Cozad.

    HHC: Would you

    be able to take some e-mails from our readers if we tell

    you how to check an e-mail account we’ll set up for you?

    FH: Well, I’m illiterate on the computer.

    So I wouldn’t be able to, I’m sorry.

    HHC: Not a problem at all. Thanks a lot

    for your time, and anything else you'd like to say or


    FH: Yeah, I

    remember something else. There was a little guy from

    Iowa who was an All-American, and I can’t think of his

    name. But I remember playing against him and I asked

    coach (L.F. Klein in 1945-1946) if I could just guard

    him. And at the half, we were tied, and he only had 4

    points and I had 5, but the problem was I had 4 fouls

    (Laughs). So coach took me out, and I didn’t get back in

    until there was about 10 seconds to play. And I hate to

    say it, but he called my name, and I acted like I didn’t

    hear it because I was so disgusted from not playing the

    whole second half. We had been tied at halftime, and

    then they blew us out the second half.

    HHC: (Laughs)

    Thanks a lot for the chat, this has been fun.

    FH: Yeah.

    Thanks for calling.


    No problem. Take Care.

    FH: You too.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

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