Channing Frye entered the arena on Monday wearing a suit, but rather than ditching the suit for a uniform, he kept his evening outfit on.
And instead of picking up a basketball, he put on an earpiece microphone to emcee the 2019 CATSYS at McKale Center, an award show for student-athletes at Arizona.
Frye just wrapped up his final NBA season with the Cleveland Cavaliers and retired after a 13-year pro career. After being drafted eighth overall by the New York Knicks in 2005, the former Wildcat and Phoenix native spent his career with the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Frye helped the Cavaliers overcome a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals to beat the Golden State Warriors and win a championship.
Now Frye is enjoying his own sleep and workout schedule along with being a personality and analyst on NBA TV and ESPN. He also hosts “The Roadtrippin’ Podcast” with ex-Wildcat Richard Jefferson, which features some of the biggest names in the NBA.
Frye spoke to the media before the CATSYS about retirement, his best memories at the UA and the opportunity to fly out to Tucson and eat authentic Mexican food:
What’s it like returning to your old stomping grounds?
A: “It’s been a wild couple of days here. I have a lot to catch up on. Everything has changed. Everything, just the dynamics, diversity, how many new buildings (there are), the advancements and everything. It’s been amazing, I think the city of Tucson is flourishing.
“And it’s awesome. We were eating at (Frog and Firkin) and we’re just like, ‘Man could you imagine having a little train or a trolley that took you from this side to that side?’ You had to find somebody who wasn’t drinking to get you a ride to that side. … It’s been amazing being around and seeing the school grow and where it is now.”
What is your favorite memory of playing at McKale Center?
A: “At the end of my freshman year, we won against UCLA, we were down 23 I think. We came back and rushed the court. I think that was the only time they rushed the court. … That UCLA team was stacked.”
How is retirement from basketball?
A: “It’s great. I’m chilling. My body is rested. No expectations on needing to be in shape all the time.
“Had me a nice couple of wings this afternoon. I thought about getting on a bike and I said, ‘What for?’
“For me it’s just embracing it. Somebody says, ‘What are you gonna do?’ I said anything. For the last 20-something years, somebody said when to wake up, how to eat, how to work out, no more seeing how to get better.
“Now it’s more like what do I need and what am I going to be happy doing next? So it’s been pretty awesome.”
How are you dealing with the freedom?
A: “The freedom is scary at first until you schedule it out. For me I’m just trying everything out. I’ve done NBA TV, Twitter stuff, I’ll go back and do stuff with ESPN. I’ll follow some coaches and see if I want to do that. For me to have the time and figure out what I love is great.”
What was your final NBA game like?
A: “It was bittersweet. I love my teammates and I’m very committed to the city of Cleveland and that organization. When you win a championship or you’re good, you have an attachment to the city because you couldn’t win without their support and energy. I’ll do anything for Arizona, whatever they need.
“And the guys that were here that won and were good, have the same kind of attitude.”
Was that story true on The Roadtrippin’ Podcast about your Arizona teammate Gilbert Arenas storming out of a classroom at the UA and shutting off the lights?
A: “That was super legit and absolutely horrible. The dude cussed a teacher out, turned off the lights.
“There was a bunch of stories that didn’t make it, but he was a handful. An amazing, crazy, talented, psycho human, but he’s a good dude.
You have that one brother or cousin that’s crazy but you always want to see what they’ll do next? That’s Gilbert.”