For family of North Laurel's Brenda Frese, Terps keep their schedule 'packed'

University of Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese, left, and her husband Mark Thomas, right,  with their twin boys Tyler Thomas, left, and Markus Thomas, right, at their home in Laurel.
University of Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese, left, and her husband Mark Thomas, right,  with their twin boys Tyler Thomas, left, and Markus Thomas, right, at their home in Laurel. (2014 staff photo by Jen Rynda)

Markus William Thomas, who turns 8 later this month, was wearing a white No. 30 Stephen Curry jersey on Friday night while Tyler Joseph Thomas was decked in red Maryland Terrapins athletic wear.

The second-grade twin brothers from North Laurel were standing near the Xfinity Center basketball court at the University of Maryland, greeting players and coaches before the women's game against Michigan State.


At 6:38 p.m., about 25 minutes before tipoff, the two boys got a big hug from the head coach of Maryland — who also happens to be their mother.

Brenda Frese, in her 14th year guiding the Terps, gave birth to the boys on Feb. 17, 2008. That was in the midst of a season in which Maryland won 21 home games, believed to be an NCAA record.

Their birth also came less than two years after Frese, in just her third season at Maryland, guided the Terps to the first women's national title in school history in 2006. At the age of 35, she became the fifth-youngest coach to win a Division I crown.

But in September 2010 Tyler was diagnosed with leukemia. After many anxious months and years, including countless trips to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, he was deemed leukemia-free last year.

To celebrate the occasion the family took a trip to Disney World in Florida.

"It was a celebration of life, to celebrate with family and friends, and all of their cousins," said Frese, standing in a hallway near the Maryland locker room after beating Michigan State, 85-76. "We had a 12-bedroom house we stayed in all week. It was about making memories that will last a lifetime."

So the challenge these days for Frese and her husband, 1988 Laurel High graduate Mark Thomas, is raising two active boys in a family where the mother is in a profession that can be all-consuming in terms of time and mental energy. The couple was married in 2005.

"This is a relentless profession. It never stops," said Thomas, during halftime of the Maryland game. Frese "is amazing how she takes advantage of time in the house. She takes advantage of every second. Our schedule is packed."

Thomas knew the demands of major college and professional sports before he met and married Frese. He was an award-winning sports journalist in the area and some of his television assignments including covering the Washington Redskins.

Thomas says he drives the boys to "about 90 percent" of their activities, including Friends Community School in College Park and sports activities such as soccer and basketball. And every three months there is a trip to Johns Hopkins for a checkup for Tyler, who is doing fine. During home games, he and his brother can be spotted roaming the Xfinity Center with friends, or sitting courtside.

Thomas said he has no immediate plans to return to sports journalism.

"It would be hard for me to be out of the picture" as the main caregiver, said Thomas, a few hours before his wife and the Terps got on a plane to head for a game at Ohio State on Feb. 8.

Frese, who was born in Iowa, is becoming an icon on the College Park campus where both the men and women's basketball teams have been ranked in the top 10 most of this season.

"This is where she wants to be; she loves it here," Thomas said.


Maryland, which hosts Purdue on Feb. 11, was ranked No. 5 in the country last week and improved to 21-2 overall on Friday. The win over Michigan State gave Frese a record of 361-106 at Maryland and she began this season as the 16th-winningest coach in Division I history in women's basketball.

The wins keep piling up for the North Laurel resident. Perhaps just as cool for her sons is that this season, for the first time, "Brenda Peanut Butter Frese" ice cream is sold at home games and on campus.

"Tyler says it's his favorite ice cream of all time," says his mother.

"They go to the concession stand and order their mother's ice cream," said Thomas.

David Driver is a former Laurel Leader sports editor.