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Jan. 23, 2013
By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fred Chmiel has been described as intense, a tough guy, the hype man and even compared to the Grinch. You can find him on the court hours before Penn State Lady Lion games feeding passes to Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley to make sure they are ready to go for that night's game.
The third year assistant coach takes extreme pride in his role with the eighth ranked team in the country and no matter what word is used to describe him, Lady Lion players and coaches see Chmiel as a very important piece to their success in 2013.
"Fred's funny," said guard Dara Taylor. "He kind of likes to play the tough guy, but he's really a softie. I think he loves all of us and he really enjoys coaching us. It's a really cool relationship."
Before game's he is on the court getting his players in the right mindset. During the games he is side by side with the other three coaches on the coaching staff commanding what has become the best team in the Big Ten in 2013, but for Chmiel it all starts with understanding each other on a personal level.
Building those relationships are important and it goes beyond executing the right defense or converting on a transition lay up.
Getting that to that level of respect is the reason why he has been able to become the team's disciplinary figure and have the full attention of the players no matter what the situation may be.
"There's more than x's and o's," said Chmiel. "There are relationships that have to be built and understanding of things outside of basketball, like if there's an academic problem or there's a problem at home. It's just understanding that, how to deal with that, how to cope with that and how to get through stuff like that."
After getting that level of respect, this is where the intense and tough guy part comes in.
He describes himself as the disciplinarian. Head coach Coquese Washington compared him to the Grinch and even called him grumpy. Why? Because he tells it like it is. It might not be what his players want to hear, but he lets them hear it.
"I think they appreciate that I'm honest with them and never sugarcoat stuff," said Chmiel. "Sometimes they don't like it, but they always understand it. That's just the way it is. That's the relationship and I think they respect that."
He works specifically with the guards and the defense, both areas that Taylor attributed their successes to the influence of Chmiel and the rest of the Lady Lion coaching staff.
Bentley, who has been working with Chmiel for three of her four years on campus, relies on his presence before each game. She uses him as an avenue for gaining more knowledge and receiving feedback to the point where she counts on his presence.
"He's my hype man," said Bentley, "the man I go to when I have plenty of questions. He's always instructing me and giving me feedback on the court, whether it's a game or a practice. He just gives us that comfort zone before the game and without him I wouldn't feel good going into game's every night."
Having that relationship with his players is what makes the "Grinch" effective and is what drives him each and every day.
"It makes me love coming to work every day," said Chmiel. "It's just like any other family where sometimes they're in a bad mood or I'm in a bad mood but we always get through it. We know where we're coming from, we know we care about each other and we know we have a common goal."
Bentley will be moving on at the conclusion of the 2013 season and pursue a professional career in basketball, but the relationships she has developed with Chmiel and the rest of the coaching staff will continue on. For now, Bentley will embrace the relationship she has built with her "hype man" on and off the court.
"He's amazing," she said. "Definitely can't trade him for anybody. He's just that special coach that gets you where you need to be."