Fred Warren has been the coach of the East Tennessee State men’s golf team since 1986, so it will close out an era when he retires at the end of June.
The 12-time conference coach of the year took his ETSU teams to 22 NCAA regionals and 14 NCAA finals, coaching 23 All-Americans along the way. The statistics of his career are mind-boggling.
Now that he won’t be adding any more to those numbers, Warren took a few minutes to chat about his illustrious career and his love of animals. The Washington County Animal Shelter has an area called the “Fred Warren Cat Condo Complex” and he recently added to his once-exclusive feline family by adopting a pair of pit bulls.
Q: How will it feel when you get out of bed one morning and you don’t have a team to coach?
A: It will be different, for sure. I’m looking forward to having a little more time. During the season, to do the job correctly as a coach, it’s a 60-, 70-, 80-hour-a-week job. And so I’m looking forward to having a little more time. But I’ll still be involved some way with ETSU and athletics because I’ll remain in Johnson City and I’ll be around the community and around ETSU.
Q: Well you certainly are involved around the community with all the volunteering and help you do with animal causes. What attracts you to want to help animals so much?
A: First, our team did some community service and I felt it was important to deal with either people or animals because I wanted to see the impact that our team could have. We got involved with the Humane Society and the Animal Shelter and one thing led to another and I started volunteering myself on my own time. Then as time went on I began serving on the board of both organizations.
Q: I know you began kind of as a cat person and you’ve had cats, but you’ve recently acquired a couple of dogs. How have you reconciled those two things, having cats and dogs?
A: I kid Lucina Grandy, the president of the Humane Society, and her husband Joe, the mayor of Washington County, that I had this nice peaceful life when I went to an ETSU function and I mentioned I had two cats that are now almost 18 years old. Lucinda introduced me to their Cat Committee so I have a couple of other cats now, and then I adopted two pit bulls from the shelter last fall and I couldn’t be happier. The pit bulls are Venus and Chief. I enjoy walking them and they probably enjoy walking me.
Q: You’ve been in Johnson City a long time. How have you seen the city change and grow?
A: It’s grown a lot over the last 33 years. First, the golf, obviously we have more golf courses now. Blackthorn comes to mind. Cattails at MeadowView. When I first arrived, we played Pine Oaks and Buffalo Valley and Johnson City Country Club. We’ve been able to expand. The other thing I’ve noticed over the last 33 years, traffic’s increased a lot. It used to be you’d get around from one side of town to the other in about 10, 15 minutes. It takes a little longer now. The university has grown in wonderful ways. The one thing that has remained constant is the people in Northeast Tennessee are some of the best people in America.
Q: Your team was ranked No. 1 in the country back in 1996 and you’ve had so many awards, coaches of the year, you’ve had players of the year, you’ve had All-Americans, you’ve had All-Conference players. Do any moments stand out in your mind when you look back at your career?
A: I would say being the No. 1 ranked team in Division I, in all of college golf, was certainly a milestone for us. The ’96 NCAA when we beat the Stanford team led by Tiger Woods at the Honors Course (for third place). And it happened to be in Tennessee so we had a lot of fans there. That’s certainly a highlight. And we got to play with one of the greatest players of all time for three of his last four rounds in college golf.