The winningest coach in college men's tennis, Ron Smarr will bring his stellar career to a close at the conclusion of the 2012 campaign.
Smarr, who was inducted into the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame in January, brings a career record of 855-335 (.718) into his 42nd season as a head coach, the past 14 as the head coach of the Owls. He passed Furman's Paul Scarpa with his final two wins of the 2011 season to take over the top spot in career college coaching victories and looks to add to that total in his final season on South Main.
Despite some nagging injuries that left his lineup in question throughout the season, Smarr led the Owls to a ninth consecutive NCAA tournament bid (10th overall) in 2011 in addition to posing a 17-10 dual record that vaulted him into the career wins lead. That effort improved his 14-year mark with the Owls to 241-136 mark in 14 seasons at Rice.
In 2010, Smarr saw his Owls overcome a murderous regular season schedule and end Tulsa's four-year run as C-USA Champions. The Owls posted a 14-9 regular season mark, including wins in eight of their last 10 matches to earn their eighth straight NCAA berth and the ninth in Smarr's 14 years on South Main. He was honored by his peers, who selected him as the 2010 C-USA Coach of the Year.
The Owls conference crown was their first since 2004, when the Owls marched all the way to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Championships. Rice parlayed a successful fall season and blasted out of the chutes winning its first 17 matches and rocketed up to No. 5 in the ITA rankings. His squad won the program's first conference title since 1972 before knocking off South Alabama and LSU to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time.
Richard and William Barker completed a perfect regular season and racked up All-America honors for the second-straight season in addition to repeating as the ITA's Doubles Team of the Year. Robert Searle joined William and garnered bids for the NCAA Singles Tournament. Searle upset the tournament's top seed in the first round.
Smarr saw a trio of his pupils receive bids to the NCAA championships in 2003 with William Barker becoming the first Owl to earn All-America honors in both singles and doubles for a single year. The Barkers advanced to the NCAA Semifinals while Searle joining his teammates at the NCAA Championships. Smarr also guided the Barker brothers to Rice's first national men's indoor doubles championship in Fall 2002.
Smarr guided Ben Harknett, Knupfer and Müller, a trio of All-Conference USA First Team performers, to another second-place C-USA finish. Harknett also advanced to the NCAA Singles Championship in 2007.
Smarr's 2006 squad enjoyed great success, posting upsets against TCU and Texas. The victory against the No. 3 Longhorns was just the third for the Owls in the series since 1980. In that match Smarr saw one of his star pupils earn his 100th career singles win as Searle rallied past seventh-ranked Travis Helgeson in the match clincher.
The Owls also made their fourth-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, advancing to the Round of 32. Additionally, Searle added to his Rice record as he earned a fourth-straight bid to the NCAA singles championship. Searle also teamed with Tony Haerle as the Owls had a doubles tandem at NCAA's for the fifth year in a row.
Smarr made an immediate impact on the program upon his arrival at Rice, guiding the Owls to a 16-9 record in 1998 and the WAC consolaton title before the 1999 team capped the decade in style with a 17-9 mark. Shane Stone and Efe Ustundag advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals and finished the season with a Top 20 ranking.
Before Rice, Smarr was at Colorado from 1988-1997 where he guided the Buffaloes to the program's first Big Eight crown in 1993. He received Region V Coach of the Year honors in both 1993 and 1996.
Smarr began his coaching career at Wingate Junior College in his home state of North Carolina. He won back-to-back national championships in 1970 and 1971 en route to an averaging of 25 wins per season. In October 1998, Smarr was inducted into the school's Sports Hall of Fame.
Smarr first Division I stop was at South Carolina, where he posted a 319-86 mark and recorded 13 straight winning seasons. In his last nine years with the Gamecocks, Smarr's teams notched eight Top 25 finishes.
A two-time graduate of Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., Smarr received his bachelor's and master's degrees in 1965 and 1967. As a player, he captained the Mountaineers' team to the Top Four nationally, playing number one singles and doubles. He also lettered in basketball and wrestling during his college career and was inducted into the ASU Hall of Fame for his athletic achievements in 1997.
Ron and his wife, Becky, have three children (Taylor, Tressa and Jordan) and eight grandchildren (Taylor, Elizabeth, John, Maggie, Tate, Hanna, Annaliese and Boone).