Feb. 15, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Q: For people who do not know much about your team and program, can you explain what to expect this season?
A: We have an energetic bunch. They will be fan favorites. They give their best and they give everything that I ask them to give (as players). If fans come out to watch our matches, I think they will get hooked to our team and tennis in general.
Q: Who are the players that fans should watch for this season?
A: We have a terrific senior named Jason Lee. Jason has had a great Penn State career. Unfortunately, he has been a little knicked up for most of his career. This year he is healthy. He is committed to trying to make the NCAA championships in both singles and doubles. He has a terrific game. I have been coaching a long time and think that he is a very talented player. It is fun to at least have one year with him.
Q: Are there any other doubles teams or singles players who could possibly make the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament this season?
A: We have really stressed our No. 1 doubles team, Russell Bader and Jason Lee, making the NCAA championships. That is our ultimate goal, to have a doubles team in the NCAA championships. They have started the year off in strong fashion. They have beaten some ranked teams. We feel that with continued hard work they have a legitimate shot to make the NCAA championships as a doubles tandem.
Q: Your team has started the season with an impressive 6-2 record and a win over a ranked Princeton team. How do you feel about the beginning of your season?
A: We are pretty much where we thought as a coaching staff that we would be right now. We struggle at times. We play well at times. The effort has been great, though. We stress (as a coaching staff) not giving up, even if it is match-point against you. Anything can happen. The players believe that they are in the match no matter what the score is. We have had some young men come back after being down this year. The Princeton match is a good example. We had quite a few players trailing in their matches before coming back to win close, three-setters. That gave them the belief system that this could be a good year for them.
Q: What are you expectations for the Big Ten season?
A: You want to try to make realistic goals that you can achieve. What we have tried to do is be in the upper half of the Big Ten and preferably the top-tier, or top-four, of the Big Ten. We feel that those are realistic goals that we can achieve. We should be striving for those goals. Those are the goals that we set at the beginning of the year. We want to be right there at the end of the Big Ten season.
Q: The big upcoming project is the new Indoor Tennis Center. Can you describe your expectations and excitement level for the new project?
A: There are only two people who could be this excited about something of this magnitude, the women's tennis coach and myself. The project puts us in the top, if not the top, indoor tennis facilities in the Big Ten Conference, which ultimately means that you have one of the nicest tennis facilities in the country. It is going to help us in recruiting. It is going to help in practice scheduling. It is going to help in hosting NCAA events and professional tennis events. It opens up a plethora of things that we have not been able to do in the past. Coming on board this year and seeing the blue prints for this project and knowing that it will be a reality makes me even more excited because I know how much a great indoor tennis facility helps a program. It is going to elevate us. The project is really a great thing.
Q: For those people who might not know, what is the lay out of the new tennis center?
A: The lay out is going to be six courts across for great viewing. You need six courts for an indoor collegiate tennis match. It will be great viewing for fans, spectators, and parents. We will have those six courts across and four more courts in the back to warm up on and to host tournaments. The real key is to have six courts in a row for viewing purposes and match day.
Q: Is there anything else about the tennis center that you are excited about other than the six courts?
A: I alluded to it earlier, but I think it is great that we can do something like this to have professional events. I think sometimes fans in State College, Bellefonte, and the surrounding areas do not get to see a professional tennis event very often. We would love to bring something like that here or a Big Ten or NCAA type of event that showcases some of the better players in the country, if not the world. Something like this on the scale that we have put together will satisfy those wants.
Q: Has your adjustment to State College and the cold been going well so far?
A: Moving from the South, everyone tells me that it is a mild winter so far, but I do not quite believe that. I am getting used to it though. The family here at Penn State could not have been nicer to my family and me. They have made the transition very smooth.
Q: What attracted you to this job at Penn State?
A: What attracted me to the job is the Big Ten and the reputation of Penn State; not only with its athletic program but with its academic program, too. I think that is so important, especially for my sport: tennis. You really have the best of both worlds academically and athletically here. Penn State is definitely one of those top-tier schools. That was a huge selling point for me.
Q: When you first started, where did you see this program? What direction are you trying to lead the program
A: Through my record, I have had success. I do not want anything less from my players than what I have had. I want them to experience that success, too. We are going to continue and keep going and going and going. That is the way that I am driven and wired. I would not have come here unless I thought we could win. I would not have come here if I did not think that we could be one of the top teams, not only in the Big Ten, but in the nation. Penn State has all the resources needed to take a program to that level, especially if you look at our other Olympic sports and the success that they have. There is no reason why the men's tennis program cannot have that same kind of success. That is what attracted me here.