Athletics & Recreation
Growing up in the basketball hotbed of Muncie, it was inevitable that the game would make an impact on the life of Fred Fields. But early on, he never would have envisioned he would become one of the best girls high school coaches in Indiana history.
An admitted late bloomer, Fields thought he wasn’t big enough to play high school basketball at Muncie Southside. He ran track and played baseball for the Rebels, but also played a lot of hoops with the Boy’s Club and YMCA teams away from school. Following a growth spurt late in high school, Fields began playing in adult basketball leagues, where he found himself on the court with legends of Muncie basketball. There was Muncie Central’s Rick Jones, the 1963 Indiana Mr. Basketball, and Ron Bonham, perhaps the greatest player ever to come out of Muncie. Bonham was Mr. Basketball for Central in 1960, became an All-American at Cincinnati, and played five years in the NBA. Fields and Bonham forged a friendship that lasted until Bonham’s death in 2017.
Another Muncie Central legend, three-time state championship boys coach Bill Harrell, was also a major influence on Fields. The two were both avid fishermen, and spent much of the offseason on the water discussing basketball strategies. On one fishing trip, Harrell even had Fields pull the boat on the beach, where Harrell dissected a particular defense using fishing baits as players.
Fields graduated from Ball State in 1973 and took a teaching job in Huntington North, a job that included a coaching position. He started as a ninth-grade boys coach at Riverview, then eventually became a Huntington North varsity assistant.
While Fields had never much wanted to be a head coach, he took over the Huntington North girls program when it opened in 1987. The Vikings had already been successful, but Fields took them to the highest level. By 1989, Huntington North reached the state finals for the first time in school history. A loss to Benton Central in the semifinals only fueled the team for the following year. The Lady Vikes got off to a slow start the next season, sitting on a 5-4 record after nine games. Fields rallied his team, and Huntington North won its final 21 games, returning to the state finals in 1990, where they defeated Noblesville and Bedford-North Lawrence to win the first state championship in school history.
Fields had built Huntington North into a perennial state power. In the 1994-95 season, the Lady Vikings lost just once in 29 games, reaching the state finals for the third time. In Indianapolis, Huntington North defeated Lake Central in the semifinals, and Carmel in the finals for their second title.
The Vikings rolled into the 1995-96 season ranked No. 1 in the state. Huntington North won its first 26 games of the year and Fields’ program was recognized as one of the best in the country, reaching No. 3 in one national poll. A bid for a third state title was ended in an upset by Kokomo in the 1996 semistate. Over two seasons, Huntington North won 44 straight games.
In his 10 seasons as Huntington North girls coach, Fields compiled a 206-49 record, with 10 sectional and six regional titles to go with his three semistate and two state championships. He coached three Indiana All-Stars, including Lisa Winter, who was Indiana Miss Basketball in 1996, the same year Fields was named coach of the Indiana All-Star team.
Fields earned numerous coaching awards, including coach of the year from Ball State Alumni, Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters, Indiana Basketball Coaches Association and Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports. He was named national coach of the year in 1996 by the National Federation of Interscholastic Coaches Association.
Fields closed out his coaching career as head boys coach at Whitko from 1997-99.
He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
In retirement, Fields and his wife, Zoe, moved to northern Michigan. He returned to the water, where he runs a successful charter-fishing business.