Remembering TPHS Coach Jim Fredenberger

Remembering TPHS Coach Jim Fredenberger

By: Tony Baranek - Chicago Tribune Daily Southtown
My last memory of seeing legendary Tinley Park football coach Jim Fredenberger is kind of a humorous one.

It came to mind last week when I heard that Fredenberger — one of the most successful coaches in Titans history — died Nov. 23 at age 87.

I last saw Fredenberger at a Tinley Park practice in the early 1980s. Lou Narish had taken over as the varsity coach, and I was there to interview him about one of his players.

As I was walking, I noticed that Fredenberger was working with the freshman team.

I’ll be honest. My reaction was something like, “What in the world? I thought he was retired. He’s still coaching? At the lower levels? Those poor freshmen must be scared to death.”

I thought that because I knew Fredenberger as a fiery perfectionist. He had little patience for mistakes, and I couldn’t imagine how his tough-love approach would work with inexperienced, mistake-prone freshmen.

Narish chuckled when I told him that story the other day.

“He took that group of kids and actually did a great job with them,” Narish said. “That freshman team was 8-1.”

And I’ll bet they made a lot fewer mistakes at the end of the season than they did at the beginning.

Fredenberger just had that way about him.

 “One of his best talents was to take players and get the maximum out of their abilities,” Narish said. "I admired his commitment to the program and the time he put in.

“He worked really hard at execution. He had a great run of tailbacks, which complemented his offensive philosophy. It all went hand in hand.”

Fredenberger was the head coach at Tinley Park for 11 seasons, compiling a record of 72-24.

In 1972 and ’73, he had back-to-back undefeated seasons as part of a 24-game winning streak. When the state playoffs began in 1974, his team qualified in Class 4A.

Fredenberger was dedicated to his job and to his players. And if you played for him, you’d better be just as dedicated.

Jim Fredenberger was Tinley Park's football coach from 1968 through 1978. He died Nov. 23.

Chris Merenowicz, who was the starting quarterback in 1975 and ’76, remembered vividly the passion with which Fredenberger coached.

And maybe some of the tough love.

“I don’t know if I was afraid of him,” Merenowicz said, laughing. "OK, I guess I was afraid of him. But he was the kind of guy you respected.

“You respected him because of his intensity and everything he did. He made you want to not make that mistake. He inspired that will to be the best player you could possibly be.”

Fredenberger tended to bring that will out of his staff as well. Larry Maday began his coaching career as one of Fredenberger’s assistants. He’s still in the game today as a scout for Andrew’s football program.

 “As a new teacher and a new coach, I was a blank canvas without an identity,” Maday said. “It was my privilege to learn at the foot of one Hall of Fame coach in Jim Fredenberger, and right after that many years with Lou Narish.

“With Jim, there was a great amount of dedication, intensity, preparation, attention to detail. He never asked anything of his players that he wouldn’t do himself. He lived that philosophy, and there was no double standard.”

Fredenberger’s lasting legacy at Tinley Park? Narish nailed it.

“Tinley Park in that era was known for football and wrestling,” Narish said. “He definitely established the tradition of football as a program.

“He was the right guy at the right time.”

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