(September 3, 2014) Various media outlets reported on Wednesday that Patrick McEnroe would be resigning his position of general manager of player development for the United States Tennis Association (USTA). The USTA held a news conference after the completion of the Kei Nishikori – Stan Wawrinka match in which McEnroe did step down.
The following is the official transcript of a news conference in which Dave Haggerty, Chairman of the Board and President of the USTA, Gordon Smith, Executive Director and COO of the USTA and Patrick McEnroe participated.
Wednesday, September 3
An interview with
GORDON SMITH and
CHRIS WIDMAIER: Good evening everybody. I’m Chris Widmaier, Managing Director of Communications for the USTA. I know everybody has a lot to write tonight, especially after that grueling five-set match. I do want to thank you for taking the time. Obviously we’re going to open this up, talk about Patrick McEnroe and his future and the future of USTA Player Development. But before we go to questions and answers, I think Patrick had a few words.
PATRICK McENROE: Thanks, Chris. Thanks everybody for coming. You reporters are pretty darn good, so you figure stuff out maybe before we had planned to announce it. Just to be able to talk to my staff and just talk to some other people. But the reality is that I will be stepping down from my position. Over the course of the last couple of months, as we have been looking ahead to what our plans will be in Orlando at Lake Nona for the USTA and specifically for player development, I think Gordon and I both kind of reached the same conclusion. Gordon, my boss, and Dave, his boss, that the head of player development, with the new direction that we’re heading in continuing what we have already started with our inclusive efforts and working with the developmental coaches in the private sector a little bit more, trying to do a little bit more in that area, it made all the sense in the world that the person in this position to be full-time based in Orlando. I think we both looked at each other over the course of obviously quite a few discussions over the last few months and realized that that probably wasn’t going to be me for a variety of reasons, both professional and personal, but I certainly felt, as did Gordon and Dave, that it was crucial for this person to be down there full time with the amount of resources and efforts that we’re putting into the new facility and the new programming in Orlando. So we felt that this was the right opportunity to start a transitional phase so that hopefully I can be involved somewhat over the next few months, however long that may be, to help with the direction that I think we’re going in, which I believe is extremely positive. I’m lucky enough to have a couple members of my team here. Again, I couldn’t get to a lot of them because of just the way this transpired, but they have really done tremendous work on our team and in player development. They’re going to continue to do that and continue to push forward with the direction we’re going.
CHRIS WIDMAIER: Gordon, anything to add?
GORDON SMITH: Yeah. When Patrick came to me and told me he wasn’t going to be making the move to Orlando, you know, I really reflected back, because I hired Patrick way back whenever it was. We hired him for a pretty narrow job there. It was elite player development. It was just about a very few players. Patrick realized that the United States really needed a broad-based, organized regional and national program. So now we are in such a different place because of what Patrick has done, what he’s brought to this country in terms of player development. We have a set of regional training centers around the country. We have a very organized coaching education program to raise the level of all coaches. We have much more outreach than we have ever had before. From where we started to where we are has been quite a journey, and I will tell you that Patrick has really created a foundation that we will build on. Patrick will be actively involved for the foreseeable future on the transition. He realized, came to me and said, Look, we are building this new place. We’re making all these plans. If I’m not going in, the person who is needs to be involved in that process along the way. In the meantime, Patrick will be involved in helping us find who that person will be and helping us with that transition as we continue forward.
DAVE HAGGERTY: Just to add, I think the last few years we have been focused on trying to reach out, be more inclusive, think about Team USA and think about doing what’s right for American tennis. Patrick has done a fantastic job. He’s answered everything that the board has asked. He’s really taken us in that direction. That will continue. That’s very important, that we continue to do what we’re doing. We have had some good success. Thank you for all that you’ve done. Patrick will be very helpful in helping guide us as to where we go in the future in succession.
CHRIS WIDMAIER: Opening it up to questions.
Q. Why now a full-time a person? ^ with the salary grade that you have been getting, wasn’t this a full-time salary position before? Why the change now?
PATRICK McENROE: I don’t think it’s a full time. I always saw this job as full time. I mean, pretty committed to doing what’s right for the USTA and for player development in general. Obviously I did some other things, still. Do some other things, as well. That’s obvious. I think when I initially took the job that was really seen as a positive. I know there have been critics about that over the years, and it certainly comes with the territory. But what I think it wasn’t so much about time commitment, it was more about the location and the resources being put into what we’re doing in Orlando, trying to make that really the centerpiece of player development moving forward. As you know, we have a home here that we didn’t have when I first started here. Obviously we have a presence in Southern California that we partner with. So the job really encompasses I believe the whole country, but I believe that moving forward, not just for player development but for community tennis as well, that it’s going to be moving down to Orlando. I just think it’s even more important. You could certainly argue that I should have been in Florida, living there, that I didn’t do the job. That’s your right to do that. But I think moving forward that I felt that the position needed to be in Orlando on a full-time basis. I certainly felt that I was doing the job from here over the last six years because, you know, I was able to use my energies in a lot of different places. You know, the job, as Gordon said, changed a lot over time. It changes from year to year as far as what your focuses are based on what’s happened in the field, based on different priorities. But I do think we’re headed in a very positive direction. Obviously when you look at the top of what we deal with, which is what a lot of people are interested in, is how are our top players doing? Obviously we are doing pretty well in the women’s side. We have a lot of work to do on the men’s side at the top, but I think we have a great group of youngsters coming up. I think we are all very optimistic about the future for them. So there is a lot of tentacles that go into this job. Certainly more than I realized going forward. That’s why having a great team in place and some of them here is, to me, probably the most important of having the right people in place to do the job.
Q. Dave is there any component or Patrick is there any component of this based on the fact the results haven’t been what you hoped in terms of on the court, particularly on the men’s side?
GORDON SMITH: The answer to that is no. If you look at where we are and where we have come from, I think, as I said we have a great foundation. Frankly, I think we are going to see results of that. We have 12 women in the top 100; 12 more in 100-200, far more than any other country. Many, many of those we have had a positive influence on. We are not as far along on the boys. Look at Wimbledon, we had seven out of the sixteen in the Round of 16; three out of four semifinalists, and both finalists. So we are really gaining steam, and I’m very happy with the foundation. Make no mistake, we’re going to continue the course. This is not a change in direction.
DAVE HAGGERTY: Just to add to that, I think the driving force is what we are going to be doing at Lake Nona. It’s really a change. I think this is Patrick saying, Look, I know this is going to be happening. We have to do what’s right. We have to plan for it, make a transition. And you don’t do that so soon that you can’t react and have the plan in place that you want to have. I think that’s really the key driver here.
Q. What would you say over the last six years you’re most proud of and what would you do differently if given the opportunity?
PATRICK McENROE: I’m most proud of the team that’s in place and the commitment and passion of the people working in the program and the outreach I think more recently. I think Dave was a big impetus towards pushing us in that direction to put more structure to that. We always felt that we, meaning player development, were doing that, but I think it forced us to look in the mirror and realize we needed to do things better in our outreach. I think there is a real sense that that’s headed in a positive direction. What would I do differently? You always look back and say there are things I’d like to do us to do even better in coaching education. I think that’s a huge issue for our country in general. The fact we are only governing body in world that doesn’t certify its own coaches. I think that’s a big issue. So there are always things you could have done better. I would love to see if every male player we work with was in the second week of the US Open. I’m also realistic. I also see what the world looks like. Overall, I’m just very proud of the people that have worked under me and that are dedicated to what they do. I believe I have had some influence on them and some positivity towards them. I expect that to continue from them.
Q. As a follow to that, what’s next for you?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, what’s next for me is, you know, we have a full staff meeting that we have in October with our whole team that we do every year. That was certainly a big impetus for me to announce this now, because the last thing I wanted to do would be to go with the 54 people that work in player development under false pretenses, to not let them know what was going on. That really started this discussion that I want to get this out. I want to go down there. I’m not very good at lying, so I’m pretty good at being straightforward and honest. (Smiling.) I want to continue to do that and work with the team moving forward. As much as these gentlemen want me to be to be involved I will stay involved and keep this train headed in the right direction.
Q. When we spoke a month ago in San Diego, you were making the rounds; you’d been to six sections…
PATRICK McENROE: Nine sections, but who’s counting. (Smiling.)
Q. And you were very candid. You said there was a sense that we were pissing a lot of people off trying to do it our way. Even though we thought we were doing our regional training centers the right way, a lot of people thought… This sense of having pissed off a lot of people, how did that play into your decision?
PATRICK McENROE: Oh, that didn’t play into my decision at all. I think that comes with the territory. I think that’s part of me learning on the job. I learned a lot of things. I believe I got better at what I did. Certainly I made mistakes, as we did within the program and as probably a lot of private coaches did, you know, when they are trying to work with kids. It’s difficult. It’s very difficult to create top-level players. I think I have a newfound respect for what my parents did, you know, to create two players, one who was really good and another who was pretty good. (Smiling.) But also for parents of junior players, for coaches of junior players, for the whole process, I think I never really understood it as a player. And now when you get to really see it and you see the work that goes into it and the dedication, et cetera, you realize it’s pretty hard, you know, to get to the promised land, so to speak, to play at the US Open. Obviously the world has caught up to us when it comes to the highest level of tennis. I think that’s a great thing. It’s great for tennis. It’s a global sport. We’re trying to do things better, and I think that means all of us. That means we in player development. That means in the private sector, et cetera. We’ve all got to work together. Maybe that’s one thing I wish I had grabbed on to a little bit earlier, because I do think it’s really paying off for us — not just for us, but for American tennis in general.
Q. Do you think those nine sections are ready to work with your successor?
PATRICK McENROE: Absolutely. Absolutely. There is a lot of people and a lot of dedicated people. This is not about — this program has never been about one person. It’s never going to be. It’s too big. Are is too many entities. Not just within our program, but with the sections, with the private sector, et cetera. So it has to be — to me, the job is one mostly of leadership and of vision. I think I was successful in some of those areas. As I said, coaching education has come under player development. That was something that I was certainly supportive of. I think that’s a positive. Us and my friend, Kurt Kamperman, who runs community tennis, we have worked side by side a lot more than we ever did. I think that’s a positive for tennis. I think that has to continue.
Q. What does this mean for José, Jay, and Jorge ^ ?
GORDON SMITH: Look, Patrick said it. Patrick’s created a great team and a great staff. They’re moving in the right direction. We want them to continue to move in that direction. We don’t see changes in what we are doing or who’s doing it.
Q. Thanks for all the sweat and the work.
PATRICK McENROE: Thank you.
Q. Used to be when Andre was around, whether it was in Zimbabwe or California, he was meeting the team. You know as well as anyone Roddick was a charismatic leader pulling for America. Now when you talk to John and Sam, terrific people, even all the way down to Koslov and Rubin, there is more of a culture of I’m working on my own game; that’s what I’m interested in. There isn’t that urgency of the, Hey, we’ve got to make this happen for America today. Could you comment about that? Do you sense that? Do you think that’s an issue of any kind?
PATRICK McENROE: I mean, it’s not up to the individual player to do it for their country, so to speak. It’s up to them to do it for themselves. I mean, as a Davis Cup captain for 10 years I spent a lot of time with Andy Roddick; he had an incredible energy and intensity level that was from him. That was him. Obviously he loved playing for his country. He loved supporting American tennis. I think that we have a lot of kids and a lot of players that have that. I think we just need to get better. I mean, our players need to get better. The coaching needs to get better. We want to be as much of a support as we can and a resource for all things tennis where our best players, our young coaches, we’re people getting people in the pipeline, for junior and collegiate tennis we created a separate position in the last few years just to focus solely on collegiate tennis and do what we can support the best players coming out of college. The answer to that question is I believe we have some of that. Great players obviously have certain individuality to them. I mean, look at Michael Chang out there coaching now. His intensity and energy has made a tangible difference in someone like a Kei Nishikori. We can always get better at that. I hope I answered your question. I’m not trying to skirt it. I just don’t see that it’s — I don’t look at that and say, That’s our issue. I look at it and say, We need to get better as coaches, as mentors, as players. We need to play tennis better. We need to train better. We need to be smarter, et cetera.
Q. It’s early on, but do you have any sense of a description of the job or the replacement of Patrick? Say, does it have to be a former player or just a great developmental coach? Somebody maybe with who has a business background a little bit? Do you have a sense of that yet?
PATRICK McENROE: Are you going to knock my business background, too? (Laughter.)
GORDON SMITH: Many of you saw John went to the ESPN set immediately before he came here. John said he was not a candidate for the job, so I know it’s not going to be John. Well, can we clone Patrick and get him to move to Nona? It’s going to be hard to replace Patrick. I was involved with the search when we hired Patrick. It’s a damn hard job, and it’s going to be hard to find somebody. But start with a lot of his talents and you’d have a good candidate.
Q. Would José be considered at all? Do you want a big name like Patrick?
GORDON SMITH: You know, honestly hadn’t thought about it. If you want to know the truth, the reason being Patrick and I had this discussion, we were in no rush. We simply — because he wanted it to come out on his terms. As things began to break we decided to talk tonight. We haven’t gotten that far down the road.
Q. How do you think your tenure in this sort of era of American tennis should be remembered?
PATRICK McENROE: Well, I hope it will be remembered when we have a bunch of players that will be at the top in a few years, because I think, as you have probably learned in your years now of covering tennis, it’s a long road to get to the top. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. You know, José and I have, and I fully expect Mark just to at least chime in on that for José to be involved. I’d like him to be on the court more, to be honest. I think that’s his No. 1 role is to be on the court working with players. We had already had discussions about him doing more of that in the near future, particularly some of our young boys that are coming up. But what we always talked about s wanting to put a structure in place, a structure that would help us create a good succession of high-quality players. I have said from the start in taking the job that I never suspected that we or any one person or program can create Serena Williams or John McEnroe or Pete Sampras. But I do believe that if you create a good system and a good program that’s organized, that has a coaching philosophy which we have that reaches out with the great private sector that’s out there that are in this game, that are in this world. Which there are not that many of them, by the way. There are some great ones, but there are not that many of it. That if you do that, this is a 15- to 20-year project. There is some disappointment in me to not see the whole thing through, but I have to be realistic about it about. When I first went to Orlando two years ago, as we were looking potentially for sites just for player development at that time before it became a much bigger deal for the USTA, you know, I wanted to do what I thought was right for the USTA and for tennis in the country. I’m going to continue to do that. So I would hope that some of those things have set some of the parameters in place and put some good things motion. Again, it’s a complete team effort. I hope that I have led some of that charge, that we can’t really just sit back, I believe, anymore and rely on, Jeez, we used to have half the draw at the US Open. Well, guess what? I mean, the world has changed.
Q. How much, if at all, have you tried to pick up things from other countries in the way they develop players?
PATRICK McENROE: You always try to find that balance of being we are the United States and we do want to do things our way. We do want to have the individual obviously be emphasized. But I do think that we wanted to get a bit more organized in the way we approach coaching and coach educating, et cetera. But at the same time, obviously you always look at what countries are doing that are having success, whether it’s France, Spain, Russia, et cetera. But at the same time, I don’t think we ever want to lose what we do well, which is, you know, be aggressive players, serve big, be attacking-type players. But you also have to realize that the game has changed. The game is played from the back court. You need to hit a lot of balls and be able to run and be very athletic. We have clay courts here. We have clay courts in Florida. We are going to have I a lot more clay courts – and some will be red, which will be nice – in Orlando; we have clay courts at our facility in California. We changed the Orange Bowl back to clay. You know, so there is a lot of things that tie into that to try to help our kids develop better so that they become better players.
Q. Is the transition anything more than you helping to find a successor? What’s the timeline for finding a replacement?
DAVE HAGGERTY: To me, I think, you know, a lot of this is new news. It’s something — you know, we are in the middle of the US Open, which is something that needs a lot of focus. But we will begin to plan and come up with something that really makes sense. This is not about change in strategy. We think the inclusiveness, what we are doing and how we are trying to work to develop American champions is the right formula. We have a great team. We just have to continue to move forward. How that looks, you know, I think we need a few months to figure that out. And the role that Patrick will play in it and the guidance that he’ll give us, you know, he’s learned a lot. Sometimes you have to take that learning and use it to make your decision-making.
Q. A year? Longer than that?
GORDON SMITH: I would say that’s an unknown, but if four to six months, could be longer. He will have much broader involvement than just finding a successor. He’s running the show. He’s in place. He’s going to be there to do that until this happens. He’s going to be involved in the search. He’s going to be involved in transferring the knowledge and the lessons learned. So it will be a broad involvement going forward in the transition.
Q. You talked about the developmental process, but what hasn’t been mentioned is our junior competition structure in this country. In my opinion, and in a lot of people’s opinion, that’s kind of an underlying issue with why we’re not seeing more of the top players emerge.
PATRICK McENROE: Yeah, I think it’s safe to say we’ve got some issues in junior comp. There is no doubt about that. We are certainly trying to tackle it in the best way we can. I will say — and I have sort of said this before and said it the wrong way and pissed some people off — but I will say that I don’t think that’s the reason we don’t have players at the top of the professional game. Just like I don’t think we need to have better coaching and education. All the things combined matter. I think junior competition matters. At the same time, you know, if you’re going to make that argument, which you’re welcome to make, then you might want to look at, well, how are we doing in girls? We seem to have a lot of girls in the top 100 and a lot more coming. They sort of play under the same system, as well. I think the premise of your question and statement is accurate, that we need to do a better job in that area, but I do think that it’s one of many issues.
Q. Last couple of years when you were out there looking at the Orlandos and whatever, were you aware from the start that you were basically looking for something that was going to take you out of a job, or was there a point where you thought you’d be able to stay with it?
PATRICK McENROE: I think a little bit of both. I mean, you know, obviously I feel like I have been able to do the job from here. If I didn’t think I’d be able to do the job I wouldn’t have kept doing it. But I do think — look, my interest was always in what I think was best for the program. That’s the bottom line. As I said, Gordon and I discussed potential directions to go, and I think we both looked at each other and we have worked well and we have been honest with each other for all these years. Dave since he became president, as well. I said, Look, I think this is going to work best for this position at this point to be based there. So, yeah, I guess I was my own worst enemy if I said I wanted to keep the job for as long as I could. I never looked at the job from that perspective. I looked at it as a great opportunity. I was paid well, obviously. I did my best and will continue to do my best. I made some mistakes, but I think generally speaking I’m proud of the fact that I have been able to be part of Davis Cup for ten years and this job for, you know, six-and-a-half years. Maybe it will seven by the time I sort of officially step aside. Whatever it is, that’s a pretty good run. They have treated me, the USTA, great. They have always been very honest with me. I have been very honest with them. I’m going to continue to do that.
Q. The last I guess 40 years, professional football, professional basketball, to a lesser extent hockey, baseball, has been pretty shrewd in using colleges to basically be a very seamless pipeline, cheap. Some could say exploited. But do you think that you, tennis, has done or could do a better job of exploiting the sort of infrastructures already in college?
PATRICK McENROE: There is no doubt we could do a better job. That’s why we assigned one of our coaches to specifically follow college tennis and specifically work with the players and the coaches. At the same time, I like to deal with reality, as well: If you look at the reality of the rankings of men’s and women’s tennis, the majority of the players didn’t go to college. It’s just a fact. It’s just a reality. That being said, we’re seeing some darn good players come out of college, particularly on the men’s side. Even a few on the women’s side that are doing well. That’s great. What I would really — what rang true with me is when I did some of my travels around the country and I heard from a lot of parents that that was important to them, that college tennis be a viable option. Because, you know, at nine or ten it’s pretty hard to say if you’re going to be a pro or not. So that sort of reenergized me to say, Hey, we need to make sure and do what we can to help college tennis, because a lot of — we might lose a lot of players when their kids are eight, nine, or ten that do other sports and get involved in other things and the parent says, Jeez, college tennis is, I don’t know. It’s not really viable. I think we need it to be healthy, and the healthier it can be it’s better for tennis in general. And I think it can be a pipeline, but it’s not going to be like football.
Q. Between public and private, could you talk a little bit about that relationship in terms of how that’s grown?
PATRICK McENROE: I think it needs to get better. That’s obviously been a huge push for us recently. The reason I say that is because it’s so much harder to make it. The private sector, you know, the tennis world has changed. I don’t mean professional tennis. I mean the business of tennis has changed to where clubs and academies, et cetera, they have — it’s more financially based now. It’s economics of how they can just stay in business. So the better a junior tennis player gets as a kid, 11, 12, 13, up to 17, 18, the more resources it takes for them to continue to develop. That’s where I believe the USTA can play a huge part in helping that process, be part of the process. And certainly not be the only part. We definitely know that. But at the same time, we need to send that message to those coaches out there, and they also need to receive the message I believe from the USTA that the — you may very well need us at some point, and that can be a good thing. If you think you can do it all alone, God bless you and good luck, but it’s pretty darn tough. The USTA can be a valuable resource in that process.
Courtesy of ASAPSports and the USTA.
As a media outlet credentialed to cover the US Open, Tennis Panorama News has permission to post this transcript.