Delzell and Frye Leave Mark
This is a new year, and there will be many pleasant things to look forward to. Sadly, two well-respected local high school coaches won’t be here to enjoy it.
Over the past seven months, Hoover High’s longtime baseball coach Jim Delzell, and Flintridge Prep’s football defensive coordinator Tom Frye, passed away in their early fifties.
Hearing the news, I was saddened and shocked, mostly because they were in the prime of their life, and had so much wisdom to offer. Since nothing is guaranteed, I’m just thankful to have known them.
How do you measure a person’s life? Because they were coaches, is it by wins and losses? Or is it something else?
I’m not sure, and while winning is important, it seems what we do, and how we do it, is equally critical. Their gifts and compassion extended far beyond the baseball diamond and football field.
To have spoken with them, I know they were more than coaches. They genuinely cared about their players and schools. Fans, parents and even reporters, sometimes get carried away, judging a coach based strictly on results.
UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who turns 100 years old this October, said he’s considered a success because his teams won 10 NCAA championships. And that’s true, but Wooden was the same coach when the Bruins weren’t winning, as when they were. Wooden stressed you’re a success if you meet the goal you set for yourself, and not the one set by others.
Delzell’s teams were often hard-hitting, but lacked pitching depth. In our many conversations, he used to say you have to play the hand that’s dealt. This meant many of the better high school talent went elsewhere, like longtime powers Crescenta Valley, Arcadia, Burroughs, and Burbank.
Trevor Bell, who made his big-league debut with the Angels in 2009, and whose older brother Brandon toiled at Hoover as a shortstop, opted to play for the Falcons because they had a winning tradition.
When I asked Delzell about this, his answer was straight forward. “We can’t recruit,’’ he said, “but I’d love to have him play for us. I lose out on a lot of really good players.”
In his first season at CV, Bell was named California’s Freshman of the Year. Don’t you think that Delzell could have used a player like Bell?
Whenever I covered a Rebels’ football game, the first person I’d seek out was Frye. Fun-loving and full of passion, he was a joy to be around. And he was intense, but in a controlled way.
Like Frye, his troops were aggressive, and they weren’t afraid of laying a helmet on an opposing player. It was something watching him on the sideline encouraging them, even when they made mistakes.
Frye was always positive, and my talks with him ranged from academics to his teaching philosophy. The same could be said of Delzell. They were two of a kind, and will be greatly missed.