Several names have been bandied about regarding the vacancy left by coach Mark Pope on the BYU men’s basketball team. One of those–Fred Roberts–is a name that has repeatedly come up despite his having virtually no coaching experience (unless you count sixth grade) and not having expressed any interest in the position. Roberts name is almost always found in lists regarding all-time BYU greats but his career has followed a very different path from what you might expect (NBA journeyman to school principal to sixth grade teacher). This makes him an excellent candidate for the first “Where Are They Now?” (WATN) men’s basketball series, patterned after the series of the same name for the BYU football team.
Early Life (1960-1978)
Frederick “Fred” Clark Roberts was born August 14, 1960 in Provo, Utah to Eldon and Dorothy Roberts. He was raised in Riverton, Utah and attended Bingham High School. While at Bingham he led the Miners to back-to-back men’s basketball championships as a junior (3A classification) and senior (4A classification), while averaging 26.4 points per contest. He was named the Utah state Player of the Year in 1977 and again in 1978 and listed as a Parade All-American.
BYU Career (1978-82)
Roberts was a four year starting forward at BYU during an era many refer to as the “renaissance of BYU basketball”. Not to be overshadowed by Danny Ainge or Greg Kite, Roberts started with a bang, bening named an All-WAC honorable mention in 1979 as Basketball Times WAC freshman of the year. He was named All-WAC honorable mention again in 1980, a season where BYU played La Salle in what some have dubbed “The Marriott Center’s Greatest Game.” That Cougar Classic final went into triple overtime and the sellout showcased two National Players of the Year, three All-Americans, five future NBA players, and nine NBA draft picks. During Robert’s junior season he was named to the All-WAC first team and went with the Cougars to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. After his senior season he was a unanimous selection to the all-WAC first team and a second round NBA draft pick.
Roberts joins Kresimir Cosic, Danny Ainge, Michael Smith, and Kyle Collinsworth as one of only five BYU players ever to record a triple-double while at BYU. He finished his collegiate career as the second leading scorer in school history (behind teammate Danny Ainge). He also held the second place position in career field goal percentage with 55%. In addition to playing for the Cougars he played with the U.S. team in the Junior World Championships (FIBA) in Brazil in 1979 and in the U.S. All-Star team in China later that year.
Professional Career (1982-1997)
Roberts was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks as the fourth pick in the second round (27th overall) of the 1982 draft. Over the span of his professional playing career he played in 818 games over 13 seasons with seven different NBA teams (see timeline/statistics below for details). For his career he averaged 7.3 points and 2.8 rebounds. His best season was probably 1990-91 where as a member of the Bucks he started 82 games and averaged career highs in points (10.8), rebounds (3.4) and assists (1.6) while shooting 53.3 percent from the field. His nickname in Boston was Norman Bates, from the Psycho movies, and he was well-known for his flat top style haircut. He was once traded for a coach (Stan Albeck), draft picks, and home rights to an exhibition game landing him on the list of “athletes who were traded for absurd things.” In 1998 he was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, along with Allen Holmes, Vance Law, Henry Marsh, and Jeff Rolan.
|1982-83||Fortitudo Bologna (Italy)|
|1983-84||San Antonio Spurs||79||19.4||3.8||7.3|
|1984-85||San Antonio Spurs||22||13.9||1.6||5.3|
|1993-94||FC Barcelona (Spain)|
|1994-95||Chicago Rockers (CBA)|
|1995-96||Los Angeles Lakers||33||9.6||1.4||3.7|
|Career||Seven NBA teams||818||18.0||2.8||7.3|
* more statistics listed at http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/r/roberfr01.html
Post-Playing Career (1997-present)
Soon after his retirement from basketball he and his family moved back to Utah to be near to family. He was offered a position to be principal (director) at American Heritage Charter school in Highland, Utah where he remained for five years (2001-06). He then returned to BYU, where he completed his Bachelor’s degree and received a teaching certificate in 2007. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Phoenix in 2010. After graduation from BYU he accepted a sixth grade teaching position at Lincoln Academy in Pleasant Grove where he continues to teach (and coach) today. The Roberts family currently reside in Alpine, Utah.
- Former Utah Jazz star Fred Roberts keeps points up in the classroom – Wendy Leonard, Deseret News, May 3, 2010.