Tennis coach Barr retires after 20 years with Bulls
USF's most tenured head coach announced he was retiring this week as Don Barr, the Bulls' men's tennis coach since 1992, stepped down on his 69th birthday. Barr, who led the Bulls to six conference titles and nine NCAA Tournament appearances, will serve as USF's director of tennis operations, easing the transition as a new head coach is selected and introduced.
Barr has the rare distinction of leading the Bulls to conference crowns in the Metro, Conference USA and Big East -- his Bulls just missed another last month, finishing second after upsetting top seed Notre Dame on their home court -- and he took a minute to talk about his retirement and memories from 20 years with the Bulls.
Q: In the end, what were the biggest factors in deciding to retire after 20 years?
A: I've enjoyed my tennis coaching career. It's been very rewarding, very satisfying, but when you get to a certain age, you see your cousins and relatives start passing away. You like to spend some time before they do leave this earth, spend more time with my wife and my boys. A lot of those things started playing a factor. I think it's time. There's a lot of things we haven't been able to do because coaching, especially tennis, is a year-round sport. You've got a fall and spring, then you've got recruiting and getting kids into school, so it's a 12-month job. My wife (Lana) has hung on for 45 years and it's time we spend a little more time together.
Q: Of the things you'll now have more time to do, what's at the top of the list?
A: My first date with my wife was fishing. We love to fish, so that's why we bought a property up in Georgia at Blue Ridge Lake. We'll be doing a lot of fishing up there, for sure. We're going to get a boat, and another priority is to get back into the church. At one time when I was growing up, I was going to become a minister. Went for my God and Country award when I was a Boy Scout, and I miss the involvement in the church, so we can definitely get back involved in the church.
Q: What are your proudest moments in among all the teams and conference champs you coached?
A: Beating Georgia at the NCAAs was a memorable moment because they were always a very good team, and beating Florida at Florida. Those are good ranked teams we beat. Just the kids I've worked with -- George Bastl played for me, him and Paco (Antelo) got (Conference USA) Players of the Decade. George beat (Pete) Sampras at Wimbledon in his last match at Wimbledon. He said if he got to the finals, he was flying me there to see him play. I could go on, but I think all but one year, we've always been over 3.0 team GPA, which is really rewarding because the kids work so hard at it.
When I lost my son (Doug, at age 23 in 1995), we wound up winning the conference championship. They just took over the team, really helped me get through that year. They took all that burden off me and it was a perfect situation. That's one of my most memorable moments, when the team knew I was hurting and took a step forward like that.
Q: Tell me about the new role you'll have as director of tennis operations and how that should help the transition to a new coach.
A: My first year will be just trying to help the new coach in, the background information, which is the toughest part of coaching, the compliance issues and rules and regulations. My role will be to help understand the paperwork and all the things they need to do, the guidance of putting a team together. A lot of the coaches call me the international guru because I have so many international players. I know all the things they need to do to get players in from other countries.
Q: Will you have any input on who is hired as your successor at USF?
A: I believe I will. I hope I do. I know probably 90 percent of the coaches across the country. I think they will ask me for my input, and that's a very important thing, because I want the program to take off. I got it to a certain level, and hopefully the next coach can take it to the next level. I know there are head coaches from all over the country who are very interested, so there will be a lot of very good, qualified coaches coming in.