New USF tennis coach: Everywhere but Antarctica
Catching up on things -- had a chance to talk last week with new USF men's tennis coach Matt Hill, who starts his new job in Tampa this week after five years as an assistant and top recruiter at Mississippi State. He's only 30, but excited about what he can do in taking the Bulls to another level after helping the Bulldogs finish No. 12 in the nation this past spring.
Q: Just to get started, how familiar were you about USF's tennis program before the job came open this summer?
A: Everyone knows USF around the country. It's a big program. Don Barr's done an incredible job there the last 20 years or so he's been there. It's always a school you're scared to play. The interest probably started for me, outside the normal interest you have in schools you coach against, back in February when I talked with (Bulls women's coach) Agustin Moreno and it sounded like there was a possibility Don might retire. And when Don ended up retiring, the interest grew from there. The interview was really sold it for me, meeting guys like Bill (McGillis), Doug (Woolard), (associate AD) Brett (Huebner). They're sharp people that really want to be good and want to do it the right way. It's been a whirlwind ever since, but it's exciting.
Q: Have you interviewed for head coaching jobs before this?
A: A couple other ones. I interviewed for Oklahoma State's this summer, a couple others. This was the one I really wanted, to be honest with you. It was the top of my list from the beginning.
Q: What will be the biggest transitions as you move into a program of your own as a head coach and sell kids on playing in Tampa?
A: One of the biggest transitions will be adapting to a different culture and such, starting to bring in a new culture. There was a certain culture we built at Mississippi State and you get acclimated and used to that. Obviously, it's going to be different, but you bring in guys that embody the same philosophy and goals we have, and create excitement in the players that are there.
Q: Do you have scholarships to play with this summer, to add players to the returning team at USF?
A: We have pretty close to two scholarships right now, and we're already working on potential recruits. I was fortunate to have a large recruiting pool at Mississippi State, and we're pretty done there, so I've got quite a few kids we were looking at, and great players around the world we're going to try to bring to South Florida.
Q: Is there a natural recruiting territory for you where you'd have the best success?
A: At Mississippi State, we recruited six of the seven continents. I've done home visits in four of them. We've had a lot of success in Europe. European tennis is incredibly strong, and they value education, they're able to speak English and they're pretty well-funded. There's a lot of positives when you talk about European players. That's an area, but there's South American players we'll recruit as well.
Q: Don Barr is staying on in a director of tennis operations role this year -- how will that help you?
A: I spoke to Don today, and he's an incredible guy. That's going to be a huge help understanding the USF culture and the dynamics of it, the challenges that might be in front of us. It's a huge advantage to have him on, and I told him that today. I'm really excited he's going to stay on for another year and continue to help us build this program.
Q: You were born in Michigan, graduated from Ferris State. Have you spent much time in Florida?
A: I have family in Clearwater. They've been there their whole lives, and I've spent a lot of time there recruiting. I usually go to Florida two or three times a year for recruiting, and we always take our guys to the pro tournaments there in the fall. I've been in Florida quite a lot to be honest. If you're in tennis, you know Florida.