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Checking in with NCAA tennis coaching legend Dick Gould

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With the NCAA Men's & Women's Tennis Championships just around the corner, we checked in with former Stanford University head men's tennis coach Dick Gould, who now works as the Director of Tennis for the Cardinal. Gould was the head coach for 38 years and won 776 matches and 17 NCAA team championships. In this Q&A Gould talks about the tournament, his memories of playing in Athens, his longtime friend and coaching rival Dan Magill, and more.

 

Thanks to Stanford sports information director Brian Risso for conducting the interview.

 

On his current role...

"When I retired from coaching after 38 years, I decided I didn't want to stop working. So I created a job description that I thought would really help the coaches who were succeeding me. As Director of Tennis, I would have the responsibility of overseeing the facility, in addition to efforts with stewardship and fundraising, and whatever else was needed to make the program run well. I think it's very fair that I'm not involved in recruiting; a parent doesn't want to talk to someone who isn't going to be there full-time as a coach for their son or daughter. So I have no recruiting responsibilities, but if a coach brings by a player to say hello or something, I'm more than happy to greet them. But when I was coaching, there were a lot of outside factors that really impacted what I was doing on the court or could do with the team. A lot of this is my own doing. I really enjoyed making the schematics for the stadium and developing the stadium additions. I really enjoyed the fundraising and stewardship aspect, and working toward some kind of a goal or endpoint. But it did take a lot of time. So I figured it would be nice if I could continue to do this, and at the same time relieve our coaches of the responsibility. That gives me time to be creative in what I do and still represent Stanford well. My current role allows me more time for public appearances and speaking engagements, either nationally or around Northern California. That also includes developing our online court reservation system and refining our video streaming. So my current role has allowed me the flexibility to do those things."

 

On going to Athens this season...

"I'll be going back to Athens, probably getting there around the start of the women's and men's quarterfinals. My schedule doesn't allow me to take more than a few days away, but I will also certainly be present for the ITA Hall of Fame induction ceremony, with Dan Magill and two of our players, Patrick DuPre and David Wheaton being inducted. I want to see our teams compete, so hopefully they are both able to make it there. I just want to be there and soak it all in. Pick up different ideas here or there. What are they doing over there that would help us if we were to host again under my administration? Of course, the University of Georgia does such a great job and there is an incredible amount of tradition with the NCAA Championships there in Athens."

 

On memorable moments from NCAA's at Athens...

"One moment that sticks out in my mind was a loss in the finals. In 1984, we were playing a very, very good UCLA team, with a terrific doubles team of Mark Basham and Michael Kures at No. 1. In those days, the match was a best of nine and doubles was played second. Everything was done, the No. 1 match was on court and I think John Letts and Jim Grabb were playing for us. Kures from UCLA is standing in the ad court with the biggest forehand you have ever seen. It was tied up in the third set for the national championship. Letts was serving and his serve could go out a little bit, so I wanted to give him a safe serve. It was no-ad scoring and break point for everyone- if they broke us, they would be serving for the match or if we held, we would have gotten by a game that was a struggle for us to win. So there were a couple reasons I called a first serve to the center tee, which was Michael's forehand. However, Michael hit that ball so hard it came back before John could take a step into the court. I did that because the net was lower, it was a pretty safe serve with little angle for a return and I thought there might be an element of surprise because nobody would ever serve it there. But he hit that ball so far with his big forehand and that was it.

Later on, we're sitting around, talking with UCLA after their postgame celebration. I said, 'Michael, did you know that ball was going there?' He looked at me and said, 'Coach, I've played against you for several years and I know what you're going to do. I knew you were going to have that ball go to my forehand. So it turned out to be one of the dumbest calls I made. Probably cost us a great chance at a championship. You remember some of those things more than any wins. Another moment I think was the relief I felt when we won the tournament during the year (1978) that John McEnroe, Bill Maze and Matt Mitchell were our top three players. That was a very different kind of a feeling. It was more a feeling of relief, that we actually got through the tournament and won it. Even more than the joy of the moment."

 

About Athens, relationships with fans/coaches, treatment he receives as a rival coach...

"You have to always enjoy going to Athens. It's always a thrill to walk around there and see what they may have added, what's new, etc. It really gave their program credibility. They started getting good once they began hosting the championships and doing a fine job with it. Dan Magill did an extremely good job of staging the tournament and coaching. That was one thing- I really wanted to host the tournament but I didn't feel like I could do that and coach at the same time. So immediately when I resigned, one of the stipulations was that we would be able to bid on the tournament. Plus, we really wanted to do it with the men and women together. You go to Athens every year or every other year, and form friendships with fans, coaching and staff. I just have always loved the atmosphere back there. I never bought into this thing of coaches have to hate their rivals, that we have to hate Cal or UCLA. You respect them but you don't hate an opponent. If it weren't for the opponent, we'd have nobody to play against. Tennis coaches are really just fun-loving guys in general. I really respected the guys I coached against. We would trade ideas even back then. I was a young guy starting out, so I'd try to steal what they were doing."

 

On Dan Magill, on and off the court...

"Dan is one of the most incredible individuals I've ever met. First of all, he has an unbelievable memory for sports trivia. He was once even the head SID at Georgia. Dan really got their athletic program on the map. He's just a great story-teller. I could remember being in the car with him, several times, begging a ride somewhere and just listening to Dan and some of those guys tell stories about some of the battles they had on the court as rival coaches. It was just incredible for me to sit and listen to him. When he gets a hold of a mic, the room gets ready to fall off their chairs in laughter because he keeps it light and makes it fun."

"I would take it a step further and say that I don't know anyone who is a greater competitor than Dan. Sure, he's fun and nice and will give you that smile. But Dan really wants to win, and I really respected how he could do that and still be such a nice guy at the same time. We exchange mail a couple of times a year. He bleeds Georgia red. He's probably the most loyal person in the whole history of the university. When Dan retired, it was such a natural thing for him to become the curator of the Hall of Fame. That was a passion of his all the way along, as he was doing it while he was coaching. It was pretty much his idea; he founded it. Dan is still playing competitively at 90 years old, or at least I believe he was until recently. He is such a competitor. He'll say, 'Oh, last week I played in the 90 and over's and it was 104 degrees and humid, but I managed to pull it out. Of course, there was only one other guy alive in the tournament.' But he's just that kind of guy. Manny (Diaz) was lucky to have played for Dan. I think Manny picked up a ton of things from Dan. Everyone is their own person and of course, Manny does things in a class way, but a different way as well. College tennis will really miss Dan Magill. Not just as a coach, but his presence. One of those guys that makes college tennis such a great sport- that's Dan Magill."

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