Where are they now? Basketball's John Friend
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
By Mark McGee
Where are they now? Basketball's  John Friend

John Friend is technically retired but he still serves as a consultant and chief fundraiser for the athletics department at Purdue-Calumet. Friend was inducted into the Lipscomb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011 and the NAIA Hall of Fame, two of the many hall of fame memberships he holds. He played basketball at Lipscomb, but is known throughout the country as a top football coach and is a frequent speaker at clinics. Friend spent some time with Lipscombsports.com as he recalled memories of his years on campus.

What years did you play basketball at Lipscomb? Who were your coaches?

"I arrived at Lipscomb in 1953 and graduated in 1957.

"The coach was Elvis Sherrill. He seemed like a good guy when I was being recruited. I saw him at a lot of our games, but that wasn't unusual to see college coaches at our games. I was 6-foot-3 and a half but I was listed at 6-4. I was the third tallest player on our team. You could play around the basket back then at 6-3 or 6-4.

"We had recruiters coming to visit all the time. I met Coach Sherrill and he told me he wanted to get me to Lipscomb for a visit.

"When Coach Sherrill left we had an interim coach. Then Charles Morris was getting out of the Navy and he joined us in December of my junior year. He was a really good coach. He was later the No. 2 person in the NAIA. He was known for his administrative ability."


As an Indiana resident why did you decide to continue your athletic career at Lipscomb?

"Frankly, Lipscomb wasn't very high on my list.

"But I was really impressed by my first visit. My mother had preached in a Church of God for a while so the values that Lipscomb stood for were important to me and my family.

"I thought I was going to go to Ball State. I was all set. Then I thought I would go down to Lipscomb and see what it was like. I didn't have a chance to meet any of the faculty when I visited but I was impressed with the quality of the students. I met a couple of basketball players.

"There was a player who was already there named Jerry Jones. He was a year ahead of me. Jerry had been talking to me about going to Lipscomb.

"I went to Crown Point High School but I lived in Cedar Lake. In those days it was a long trip to Nashville from where I lived in Indiana. It was a 10-hour drive. I told my Mom it was one of the best decisions I ever made to come to Lipscomb."


What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?

"It was during my first year. I wasn't even close to being all-state in Indiana. I think I may have been honorable mention. I arrived on campus and there were five of six guys from Tennessee and Alabama that had been all-staters. A year ahead of me was Gary Colson. We are still best of friends.

"I saw all of the credentials of those guys and I thought I would be lucky to even see the floor. But I found out that having played in Indiana was a distinct advantage. It probably still is. We played a much more competitive brand of high school basketball in Indiana. The coaching in Indiana was at a very high level. Indiana has been a traditional high school basketball state for 100 years.

"Fundamentally I was ahead of some of those guys. They were very athletic but they had not played the level of basketball I had played. So I was able to become a starting center at that time as a freshman. At the end of the year I was named to the all-tournament team which was quite an achievement as a freshman."


Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?

"I have to go back to Dr. Howard White. He didn't have much to do with athletics, but he was so influential.

"There was a gentleman (Cal) who was the custodian in McQuiddy. He would always take me aside and talk with me. I was very aggressive. I would foul out of a lot of games. He would say, `I don't know how you play up there in Indiana but you have to cool it and calm it down'. He was an influential guy that no one knew very much about. He would take athletes aside and talk with them."


What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?

"Being baptized by Dr. Howard White at Otter Creek Church of Christ the spring of my junior year. He baptized my wife when we were at Pepperdine.

"Several people had been working on me for a while. It takes a little encouragement when you came from a background like mine. My mother was an evangelist, but the Church of Christ was not well known in Indiana."


What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?

"I learned a perspective on life beyond athletics. I came there to play basketball. I never worked as hard as I should academically. But I gained a perspective on the life quality that Lipscomb represents.

"There is more to it than whatever job you have. The family unit is very important to Lipscomb people. I saw role models like Dr. Howard White and other good examples on the faculty and coaching staff.

"Lipscomb does a terrific job of teaching people how to live."


Who was your favorite professor? Why?

"I majored in health and physical education and minored in history.

"I may have had enough history courses for a major. Dr. Howard White impressed me so much as a teacher. He was such an influence on not only his history students, but over the entire campus. I started taking those courses because I would see what he was teaching. He was dignified and impressive the way you expect a college professor to be. I remember it seemed like the classes only lasted 10 or 15 minutes because they were so interesting.

"I still read and study history - World War II and a little bit of World War I. I also taught history. A lot of that was because of the influence of Dr. White. If you talk to Colson and the other guys that were there at that time they will tell you how truly impressive he was.

"There were many fine faculty members and administrators. I got to know Willard Collins well. Tom Hanvey taught physical education. He had an upbeat personality."


Where do you live now?

"I live in Munster, Indiana.  I went to Purdue-Calumet in 1980 but I am only four or five miles away from campus living in Munster. I am on the school board in Munster."


Tell us about your coaching background?

"I coached the freshman team at Pepperdine. Jerry Jones had preceded me out there. Dr. Howard White was the president. Dr. White became a very good friend. He was always very kind to me.

"I am in the Indiana Football High School Coaches Hall of Fame. I am a member of six or seven hall of fames mostly as a coach. I am a member of the Purdue-Calumet Hall of Fame and I am very proud of that.

"We started a new high school in Munster in 1964. I was the head basketball and football coach for the first couple of years. I was the head football coach there for 16 years and was the athletics director."


Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?

"I work part-time at Purdue-Calumet. I do a lot of development work. We have a big golf outing where we take in $50,000 in one day. We have been doing that for 30 years.

"We are positioning to go NCAA Division II. We have been NAIA for several years. We are going to merge with Purdue-North Central. We will have one campus in 2016. We will be in a good position to go into NCAA Division II. That is exciting for us."


Tell us about your family.

"Bette and I started dating in high school. We married the summer before my senior year in college.

"We have a daughter, Tracy, who is a special education teacher. Out middle daughter, Jerri, Is marketing whiz. She has had national recognition for her marketing skills. Our son, Doug, is a high school principal in Hammond, Indiana. They are all Purdue graduates. Doug is a Ph.D. candidate at DePaul."


My email is john.friend@purduecal.edu.