Nov. 10, 2011
Former Rice All-America Efe Ustundag, who has spent the last seven seasons as Ron Smarr's assistant, will succeed Smarr as the Rice head men's tennis coach after Smarr retires at the conclusion of the 2012 spring season.
"This is really a dream come true. Even though there have been opportunities that have come up over the past several years, my goal was always to be the coach here at Rice," Ustundag said. "There a lot of things that can be done here to build upon what Ron (Smarr) has done. I have learned a great deal working with him over the past seven years. I look forward to moving forward with some of the things I would like to do in order to build on the success we have had," he added.
"Efe is one of the best young coaches in the country," Smarr said. "We were fortunate to be able to keep him here as long as we did, and now it's his time. He's been ready to make this step and hiring him as the next head coach was the right decision for Rice."
"Ron Smarr returned our tennis program to its place among the nation's best, and Efe played a major role in that success, first as a player and then as Ron's assistant," Rice Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan said. "Efe knows that success on the court and in the classroom are possible at Rice, as witnessed by his own success here as an undergraduate and will expect nothing less from his players. We are very fortunate to be able to put the program in the hands of a Rice man who wants to bring greater recognition to his school. "
Rice has made the NCAA Team Tournament and finished inside the Top 50 of the ITA rankings in each of Ustundag's first seven seasons and have also qualified a player in singles in six of his seven years. The Owls also have racked up 26 All-Conference honors during Ustundag's tenure.
Prior to his return to his alma mater, Ustundag spent the two seasons at Texas Tech as an assistant coach. The Red Raiders advanced to Big 12 Semifinals in 2003.
Ustundag spent two years as a professional player and assistant coach for Enka Tennis Club in his native Turkey. He assisted Ali Gorec, the former Turkish Davis Cup coach, in various administrative and coaching duties.
Ustundag won the national championship in both singles and doubles during 2000, while capturing the national indoor championship in both events in 2001. He also was a member of the Turkish Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2001.
A doubles All-America selection at Rice, Ustundag also anchored the Owls singles lineup during his final three seasons and maintained a national NCAA ranking as high as 16th. He was the MVP at the 1996 Team Championships in San Diego.
Ustundag followed that up with Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Scholar Athlete of the Year and Tennis Magazine's Arthur Ashe Jr. Award for sportsmanship and leadership in 1998. He was an All-WAC Singles First-Team selection and All-WAC Doubles Second-Team honoree en route to NCAA Region VI Senior Player of the Year.
Before attending Rice, Ustundag attended the famous Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida from 1990-93. He was awarded the NBTA Grand Slam award for academics, citizenship and athletics in 1992.
Ustundag graduated from Rice in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in managerial studies and sports management. He and wife Suur Biliciler-Ustundag make their home in Houston.