As a senior editor at PEOPLE magazine, where his duties once included coordinating coverage of England's royal family, Dick Friedman dealt with more stories about Prince Charles than about Sir Charles. But when he came to SI for a three-month stay last April as part of a program allowing various Time Inc. magazines to swap staffers, Friedman was placed in charge of our NBA playoff coverage. "I was thrown into the battle right away," he says. "My first thought was that all those hours slumped on the couch watching games on TV were finally going to pay off."
His creative story ideas and deft editing touch didn't hurt either. He handled the assignment so adeptly that we persuaded PEOPLE to allow him to return to SI permanently, which he did in September as our pro basketball editor, just in time to plan our NBA coverage, including the profile of New York Knick rookie Monty Williams that appears in this issue (page 56).
Friedman, 43, logged long hours in front of the tube covering entertainment, first for TV Guide and later for PEOPLE. "I was probably watching—and this is a conservative estimate—20 hours a week, 50 weeks a year at one point," he says.
Still, it's not surprising that he adapted so quickly to SI. He penned profiles of golfer Tom Watson and shot-putter Brian Oldfield for PEOPLE, as well as a 1975 piece about a pair of promising Boston Red Sox rookies named Fred Lynn and Jim Rice.
That baseball story appealed to the New Englander in Friedman, who was born in Manhattan but grew up in Newton, Mass., and graduated from Harvard in 1973, all the while closely following the Red Sox, the Bruins and the Celtics. "I remember my father taking me to my first Celtic game in 1959, when I was eight years old," he says. "We would go to Boston Garden almost every Sunday afternoon, and the Celtics were so good that it was several years before I saw them lose a game in person."
Friedman has evolved from a Celtic rooter into an unbiased fan of the game in general. His home in Cranbury, N.J., where he lives with his wife, Meryl, and their 10-year-old daughter, Leah, is strategically located. The arenas of five NBA teams—New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington and Boston—are a train ride away. The Friedmans' 15th wedding anniversary was Nov. 4, the night the 1994-95 NBA season opened. The Knicks were playing the Celtics in Boston Garden, and although Dick was able to resist the temptation to go to the game, it was harder to fight the urge to watch it on TV. "My wife—make that my highly understanding wife—agreed to postpone our anniversary dinner until the next night," he says, "so I could watch the game."
Friedman's own basketball career didn't go beyond intramurals at Harvard. At 5'3", he was no Muggsy Bogues, but "I could hit an open jump shot," he says. "The problem was I couldn't defend, jump, penetrate or handle the ball."
None of that really matters. Having seen what Friedman can do when he's thrown into the game, we still want him on our team.
Friedman has mastered the NBA in short order.