April 13, 2012
Ron Smarr's legendary career will come to a fitting close when college tennis' career wins record holder is inducted into the ITA Men's College Tennis Hall of Fame on May 23 in Athens, Georgia.
Smarr, who takes a career record of 871-342 into his final weekend of the 2012 regular season, will join with fellow coaches Chuck Kriese (Clemson) and Paul Scarpa (Furman), players Patrick Du Pre and David Wheaton (both from Stanford) and contributor Jon Vegosen (Chairman of the board of UTSA) as members of the 2012 induction class.
"Ron Smarr has been a tremendous mentor to hundreds of college tennis players throughout his career and this honor is richly deserved," Rice Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan said. "His body of work alone speaks for itself, but the job he has done in 15 years at Rice stands on its own merits. He brought this program back to a level of prominence on the court while maintaining a record of achievement in the classroom that everyone at Rice can point to with pride."
"It's obviously a great honor and I am looking forward to the induction ceremony. I coached against the other coaches (in the class) for over 35 years and a recruited the heck out of both of the players (De Pre and Wheaton) before they decided to go to Stanford. I am also looking forward to the special recognition they are doing for Dan Magill, who has done so much for college tennis," Smarr said.
"In every sport, your success as a coach always goes back to the athletes you coach, so all of them deserve the credit for an honor like this. I've been blessed to have had a lot of good players who won a lot of matches. And, don't kid yourself, this is also because I have been blessed to have some great assistant coaches. Sam Paul has gone on to a great career at North Carolina and Scott Davidoff followed me at Colorado. Shaheen Ladhani, my first assistant here had the chance to take the Miami job but chose to go into private business, and of course Efe Ustundag, who will be taking over for me here. It takes more than one person to keep programs going and I have been blessed," Smarr added.
After a standout playing career at Appalachian State in which he twice led the Mountaineer's to a top four ranking playing number one singles and doubles (and also earning letters in basketball and wrestling) Smarr began his coaching career at Wingate Junior College in 1968, where he won a pair of national titles before moving on to the University of South Carolina in 1972.
He posted a 319-86 record in 13 seasons with the Gamecocks, and eight of his last nine teams were ranked in the top 25. He took over the reins of the Colorado tennis program in 1988 and led them to their first Big Eight title in 1993 and was twice named Region V Coach of the Year honors.
Smarr came to Rice in 1998 and in his second season he guided Shane Stone and Efe Ustundag to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championships, earning the pair All America honors. Ustundag later returned to Rice as Smarr's assistant coach and last fall was selected to take over as the Owls head coach after his retirement this year.
In his 15 seasons at Rice, Smarr has posted a 257-143 record while leading the Owls to 10 NCAA appearances, the last nine in consecutive seasons. He has won a pair of conference titles and produced eight All Americans. In 2004 he was named the National Coach of the Year after the Owls reached as high as #5 in the national polls and reached the Sweet 16 at the NCAA Championships. His double team that season of 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.
He is the second Rice head coach who will be entering his sport's hall of fame in 2012. Rice baseball coach Wayne Graham will be inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in June.
Induction ceremonies for the 2012 ITA Men's Tennis Hall of Fame will take place at the University of George Continuing Education Center. The ITA Men's Tennis Hall of Fame is located on the campus of the University of Georgia, which will also be hosting the 2012 NCAA Tennis Championships.