The South Carolina men's tennis team completed their regular season schedule on Saturday on the road at Florida. After the conclusion of the SEC Tournament, head coach Kent DeMars will see his final season at the helm of the program come to an end. Throughout his 37-year career at the collegiate level, DeMars has coached more than 57 All-Americans, an Olympic Gold Medalist Doubles team, as well as former Wimbledon, French Open, U.S. Open and Davis Cup Champions. He was selected the National Coach of the Year in 1989. In May, DeMars will be inducted into the Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame.
Ron Morris of The State recently wrote a story about Coach DeMars' career - click here to read "Charmed life for USC's DeMars."
We spent some time recently with Coach DeMars and asked him about his legacy as a head coach and what he plans to do with his newfound free time.
Spurs Up: What kind of emotions did you feel during your last home weekend? Does it feel bittersweet?
You're so taken up with the matches and you're so busy with everything, it almost wasn't enough time to reflect on the moment. In the back of my mind, I knew it was the last match there, but I haven't really dwelled on it much. We were concerned with the rankings and we've got signing period upcoming, so it's probably good. I think after SECs is when I'll be able to take a breath. I've had a lot of people call and chat about things and so it makes you reflect on stuff. I still have to figure out what I'm going to do with all my stuff. Things will be pretty busy until June.
I'm looking forward to it. I set this in motion three years ago. I spoke with Eric [Hyman] and told him I wanted to give him time to do what he needed to do. I'm 66 years old and I've told people before I don't want to do what JoePa is doing at Penn State. I don't want to go from the gridiron to the nursing home. I'd like there to be a little bit of time in between and use these legs to travel and ski and do things I'd like to do that I haven't been able to do. My golf clubs have quite a few cobwebs on them. I have a new grandchild who will be 1 year old in May and I haven't had the time I'd like to spend with her. It will be nice to be able to set my own agenda. I will miss it but in a way I won't because I've really geared up for this. I haven't really done anything different now than I've done thirty years ago.
What have been some of the most rewarding parts of your career as a coach?
There's a lot of different things. When we went to the semifinals of the NCAAs as a team was an unbelievable highlight and we got the 3rd place national championship trophy. That same year, I was named the National Coach of the Year. I was flown to the U.S. Open and honored at Center Court right before Becker played Lendl. That was a special week and a half where we had the team thing and then the individual accomplishment. I had a player, Guillame Legat, reach the semis of the national tournament so there were a lot of neat matches there. Individual matches like the one year that UCLA was No. 1 in the country and we beat them in the quarterfinals of the national indoors in a very close match. That was a team that it was the only match they lost all year.
Over the course of your career, what are some things you've always tried to instill in your players? What are some things you'd want your players to remember about you?
I really try to take pressure off people. I think pressure is the thing that destroys you whether you're shooting a free throw or anything in sports. If you can be happy with doing the best you can, I think that's the secret. People put so much pressure on themselves to do well and do better. You just have to look in the mirror and be able to say "I tried my best." If I have to go play Roger Federer, can I really evaluate how I played based on winning and losing? No, because I'm going to lose, but I can still try my best. So many people are only happy with winning. The real good ones are able to internalize the pressure and not be so upset whether they win or lose this point.
More than anything else, I don't have a high energy, shouting style. I just try to get people to buy in to what we need to do. I also want to see my players have balance. I want my players to do well in academics and I want them to have somewhat of a social life. I think they realize they can make a mistake and realize that I'm on their side. I think maybe they'd see me as a second father to them where they develop a certain pride for their university, their team, their friends and family. Hopefully, I instilled that pride in them. I would just like to see us do the best they can down to the last day.
What does induction into the Hall of Fame mean to you as a coach and individual?
That's something your peers have a chance to evaluate what you do and it's really a special moment. I don't go too much into that. I let my actions speak and I don't need a award for that, but it will be a special time. A lot of coaches will be there and my family will come and it will be a neat moment. If you're a tennis coach, it's the top award you can get so it's certainly special. I did what I did and made a lot of good friends and that's good enough for me.
What are your plans for the first thing you'll do when you're officially done?
I've left the slate clean on purpose. I have a page in this notebook of my bucket list. I just wanted to get out and decompress for a bit. There's a lot of things I'd like to do. I've never taken a cruise and I have little hobbies like golf, fishing and skiing and I want to do some visiting. I want to spend some time with my grandchild. I didn't set up a cruise at such and such time. I have a home in the Ozarks and my family will come and spend some time with me this summer. I haven't really set up a whole bunch of things, but it will be fun.
Do you plan to stay in the Columbia area?
Both my daughters live here and I think it will be fun. I'm a huge Gamecock fan and I'll be here for every home football game. I'll attend some basketball games and baseball. I'll go to swimming and other sports as well. I'll go to the tennis matches and I think it will be fun just to sit as a spectator and not have a lot of pressure and worry about things. It will be nice to relax.