Robert "Bob" Fee* (2015)
During the heyday of Uniontown High School athletics from the 1960’s through the 1970’s, the Red Raiders had a feeder system from their two Junior High Schools, Ben Franklin and Lafayette, second to none.
The architects of those great junior high programs were Bill Barron and Bill Broda at Ben Franklin and Bob Fee at Lafayette.
Fee played High School basketball at Uniontown and later at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and was a member of the faculty at Lafayette Junior High for 42 years until his retirement in 1974. He coached for 38 of those 42 years.
Former Herald Standard Sports Editor Tod Trent wrote this about Fee when he retired. “The records will say simply he was a teacher and coach. And he would agree with the designation. But he was more, much more than that.
“Bob Fee has been a molder of young boys as they reached that age where they were on the threshold of turning into young men.”
Fee and Tiger basketball first come to mind, but he coached football and track as well. The 1973-74 school term signaled the end of his teaching and coaching in the Uniontown school system. He reached mandatory retirement age.
He compiled an outstanding record at Lafayette. The Tigers joined the Jr. WPIAL in 1948 and during that 26-year period when records were kept they posted a record of 384-85.
Fee’s team’s captured 14 Jr. WPIAL Section One titles and were co-champs four times. Fee’s Tigers were undefeated in 16 of his 38 years as the cage boss.
Longtime Ben Franklin Coach Bill Broda had this to say about Fee, “Bob Fee at Lafayette was great and what made our program unique was we were together for football and we broke up for basketball and that was a big rivalry – they used to fill the high school gym for the BF-Lafayette game.
“About the time we got the rivalry going in basketball we got back together again in track. It was a good program – that made the program real good.”
At one point Lafayette won 97 straight basketball games. Fee upon his retirement remembered how that streak came to an end.
“Monessen Junior High beat us on our own floor in a double overtime in the final second or two of play,” he recalled.
Fee coached football and track as well during his time at Lafayette. There was a four-year period when he not only coached the Lafayette team but also handled the Uniontown junior varsity.
“In those days Uniontown practiced and played on our floor.
“1 would handle the junior high team in the afternoon and the jayvees in the night preliminary.”
Fee had the opportunity to coach some of the greatest athletes in Uniontown High School as they made their way up to varsity competition.
When he retired in 1974 Fee was asked about some of his boys. He hesitated about singling any out. “There have been so many good ones and I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out.”
He did cite this remembrance of Stu Lantz. “He was so skinny and slightly built as a seventh grader I was afraid someone would break him in half.” Fee opined.
Lantz garnered All State honors and led the Red Raiders to a PIAA State Championship in 1964; he had an outstanding career at Nebraska and later in pro basketball.
Three of the starters on the 1962 Raider state basketball championship team (Don Yates, Allyn Curry and his son. (Tommy Fee) were Lafayette boys.
Two years later when the Raiders repeated four starters (Lantz, Pat Yates, Ray Parson and Ben Gregory) were ex-Tigers.
“They were all good kids when I had them,” Fee stated. “But so were Johnny Unice, Sandy and Ray Stephens, oh, it’s just impossible to name every boy.
“I’ll tell you this, though, they were all important to me. Lafayette boys had a winning spirit and it was contagious.”
Many of Fee’s former players have found memories of their old junior high coach.
“I think Abe Everhart had a great relationship with Barron at BF and coach Fee at Lafayette,” Allyn Curry said. “And they gave us the sound fundamentals because they knew the type of system we were going into in high school and so we were ready.”
Former Laurel Highlands star Barry Taylor played junior high ball at Lafayette before transferring to LH.
“I’ve had a number of great coaches playing basketball – my father, Bob Fee and Ron Fudala and Abe Everhart the short time that I played for him – they are as good as I ever been around. I loved playing for Mr. Fee – he was the greatest.”
One of the highlights of Fee’s career was coaching his son Tommy. Fatherly pride showed through when Fee retired from coaching.
“Tommy knew he had to work harder than anyone else and couldn’t make mistakes. I think he turned out pretty well.” Fee said.
At Uniontown High the son played on a WPIAL championship football team and a P1AA state championship basketball squad.
He went on to play three years under Charley Bradshaw at the University of Kentucky in the rugged Southeastern Conference.
“Playing for your Dad puts a little more pressure on the young man in that situation,” Tom Fee recalled. “You are trying to earn your way and to set your place with your teammates. Fortunately I had a lot of backyard coaching to help me.
“Sometimes after practice we had additional practice in the backyard. Dad was very patient and he had a great knowledge of the game and an ability to talk to young men at a level they understood.”
Fee was also a part of the great playground culture in Uniontown, another son, Bob Fee Jr. remembered.
“He gave everybody a nickname,” he said. “He’s the one who named “Pope” Gregory; everybody had a nickname from him. He worked at Boyle playground for Bus Albright for many years. We lived on Grant Street and he knew all the parents and all the kids.”
When he retired in 1974, reflecting on his years at Lafayette Fee admitted that he would miss it - the teaching and the coaching.
“It was a whole lot of fun. Being with young fellows keeps you young. Despite the difference in age I don’t think my teams ever resented me. I had good kids, they were coachable, and they listened and followed instructions.
“I ran basketball practices just like I ran my classroom. I was the boss; the boys knew it and accepted it. I tried to pattern myself after A. J. Everhart Sr. In my opinion he was the best coach
Uniontown has ever had.
“He could inspire you, the kids all liked him and he liked people. It always seemed he was a step or two ahead of other coaches and he wasn’t afraid to innovate. Back then he coached every sport and did it all alone without any assistants.”
Fee who touched thousands of kids during his teaching and coaching career passed way on July 12, 1994.