Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese became the first woman inducted into the Washington Metropolitan Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Over Frese’s 19 years at Maryland, she has accumulated 512 wins, three final four appearances and a national championship in 2006.
“To be the first to be inducted, I’m grateful for that,” Frese said. “There [are] so many people, Chris Weller before me, who did a wonderful job and led the path here for me to be standing here, and so many other great women who continue to do some special things.”
Frese was inducted alongside Bob Geoghan, Dan Harwood, E.B. Henderson, Sidney Lowe, Eddie Peterson, John Thompson Jr. and Dereck Whittenburg in a ceremony at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.
Most of the other inductees made their impact at the high school ranks. Pete Strickland, the interim boys’ basketball coach at DeMatha Catholic High School, introduced Frese.
“No one, from all accounts, leads better from the heart than coach Frese,” Strickland said.
Her heart was on full display as she spoke and reflected on her journey from a basketball-obsessed kid in middle America, to a Hall of Famer in the DC-Maryland-Virginia region.
“Never did I think … this little girl from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, growing up and falling in love with this game, that I’d be standing here in the most powerful city in the world in front of all of you to receive such a tremendous recognition,” Frese said.
She looked back to her first year at Maryland, when she was hired in the wake of the men’s national title in 2002, and she remembered having much more modest goals then.
In Frese’s first season, her team was blown out at Duke by 51 points. Just four years later, it was the coach’s time to shine, as she stood in Boston with a net around her neck after defeating Duke in the National Championship game.
Two starters on that team, Laura Harper and Crystal Langhorne, were in attendance for Frese’s induction.
Frese’s father, Bill, always told her that basketball would change her life and that the sport and her passion for it would allow her to do great things.
“It paid for my education, six kids. I’m not sure where my parents were going to pay … so the scholarship made that happen,” Frese said. “I got to travel to places like Italy and Paris and Prague … I got to experience the world.”
Her basketball journey brought her to College Park, a place she never saw herself staying. Nineteen years later and with six years left on her contract, Frese hopes to retire as a Terp.
“This has always been home,” Frese said. “When I first got here I just hoped that I was good enough … I hoped that I would be able to get a contract extension.”
Last season may have been the finest coaching performance of Frese’s already-excellent career.
Despite coaching a young and inexperienced team through a pandemic, Frese was unfettered. She coached her squad to a 26-3 record, securing Big Ten regular season and tournament titles along the way.
It was the kind of season that could define her tenure at Maryland, which includes 14 conference championships, 17 NCAA tournament appearances, nine Sweet Sixteens and six Elite Eights, among other accolades.
But those accomplishments aren’t what Frese focused on as she wrapped up her speech. Instead, she talked about the people who have been on the journey with her — some who were in the crowd and many who were applauding from afar.
“It’s always been about the relationships for me,” Frese said. “I just hope that I’ve impacted their lives as much as they’ve impacted mine because I feel so much richer because of them.”