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A talk over a sandwich with Channing Frye

Channing Frye was eating a sandwich as big as my arm. I asked him what was in it, but then I really didn't listen to his answer because I was marveling at the sheer magnificence of it. Apparently, it was chicken, but it sounded crunchy and it looked juicy ... can anybody tell that it's Lent?

Channing's name could just as well be Charming. Then he'd be allowed on The Maury Povich Show.

He's mellow and easygoing, somewhat fastidious and mannered, confident but not cocky. He's not overly talkative, but he's light years away from being monosyllabic like a whole lot of today's athletes. He's a major reason why the Arizona Wildcats are in position to reclaim the Pac-10 championship after a one-year hiatus.

(Oddly enough, Arizona has only won two outright Pac-10 titles in the past 10 years, and tied for another. In that time, they've finished second five times, third once, and they finished fifth the year they won the national championship.)

While a Pac-10 championship would be nice, that's not Frye's main goal. "If we don't make it to the Final Four," he says, "the season will be a disappointment. And I don't like disappointment. That's why I try to work as hard as I can in the off season and at practice."

From all reports, Frye is a coach's dream. He very easily could have left the UA after last season ended badly for that underachieving group of individuals. (It's best not to use the word "team" when discussing that bunch.) He could've grabbed the money and headed off to the NBA, the place where real basketball goes to die. But he chose to come back, and if anybody's happier than Lute Olson that he chose to do so, it's Channing Frye himself.

"I'm glad I (stayed). I know that other people think that I should have left, but it's not their life. I'm always going to do what's right for me."

So he is an increasingly rare commodity, a potential All-American who stayed around for his fourth year of college ball. But that's not all that's unique about him. For example:

· There's his taste in music. "I listen to a lot of different stuff. Right now I'm listening to '80s rock and a lot of jazz. Jazz really interests me." A couple weeks ago, on a road trip, Associate Sports Information Director Richard Paige asked Frye what he was listening to, and, Paige recalls, "Channing said 'Coltrane.' I was really impressed."

· His take on Coach Carter, the hit basketball movie starring Samuel L. Jackson. "I haven't seen it and I probably won't. I don't like basketball movies."

Not even Hoosiers?! "It's OK. I've seen it, but not all the way through. I just don't like basketball movies."

NOT EVEN THE FISH THAT SAVED PITTSBURGH?!!! "I've seen a little bit of that, but only because it had Dr. J."

· Math is not his friend. "Oh man, I just don't get (higher) math. I'm a good student, and I work hard in every class, but math ... I mean, I understand when they say 'x is this and y is that,' but when they want to know what x-squared times y-to-the-fourth is, I start thinking 'Why does anybody want to know this?'"

· His grandfather was a Tuskegee Airman. That's just cool.

· His former girlfriend, 6-foot-3 Kristen Kovesdy, is the star of the Arizona State basketball team. "She was my girlfriend in high school (at St. Mary's in Phoenix). But when I came to the UA, we broke up because ..." His voice trails off and he never actually gives a reason, so I'm now starting the rumor that Lute Olson forced him to break it off because, in the immortal words of Kathy Bates, "She's the Debbil."

· He admits that he's choked in games before. Most athletes stay away from choke admissions like Donald Rumsfeld avoids taking responsibility. "Yeah, I've choked. I hate that feeling. I never want to feel it again. It's awful to choke, but the memory of that feeling is good motivation to make you work hard so that it doesn't happen again."

· He's got a monster ride, but he "paid" for it with his own sweat. "All the way through high school, I drove an old pickup truck with no air conditioning. Can you imagine driving around Phoenix all year with no air conditioning? My parents told me that if I did that, they'd buy me a nice car to go to college in. They used the money they had saved up to send me to college in case I didn't get a scholarship. But I still remember that truck."

In a couple days, Frye will play his last home game in front of the McKale Center fans. As a sophomore, he missed out on the Final Four when the Cats suffered a gut-wrenching Elite Eight loss to a Kansas team they had beaten earlier in the year at Kansas.

"I don't want to feel that disappointment again," he says.

Talk about disappointment! When we finish, he has about one-fourth of the sandwich left, but he just wraps it up in the paper and throws it away.

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