Recently, I conducted an email interview with Morris King Jr., the former coach of Serena and Venus Williams, as well as Amer Delic. I contacted him through an article I wrote titled “American Tennis Has Fallen Behind European Counterparts.”
He said as an African-American, he has suffered through immense discrimination during his time as a world-class coach, mainly from the USTA.
1. Could you describe for us what happened to you when you were looking for a job in Florida and then for the USTA?
As a world-class coach, I primarily seek out high-level circuit players to coach, whether junior circuit players or pros. The only institutional tennis coaching jobs that I have applied for in Florida were collegiate coaching positions at my alma mater, the University of Florida (UF), and at the University of North Florida (UNF); also National Coach, High Performance Coach or Player Development Coach positions (whichever name they are using this year) with the USTA’s Player Development/High Performance department, which is located in Florida.
I have attempted to make contact with many, many players over the years—especially through their agents—all to no avail. The tennis agents have been some of the very people that have been maintaining the (racial) status quo; they have never recommended me to their clients when there was an opening for a coach.
I have had direct communication with a few, and I have sent email notices of my availability whenever I learned that one of their clients was in search of a new coach. They always fail or refuse to respond.
One agent, Olivier Van Lindonk of IMG, was so bold as to tell me to take his name off of my list when I selectively sent out a notice of my completed interview with BlackTennisPros.com to those whom I had established at least an email relationship with over the years (I still have that email from him).
The last Floridian that I tried to coach was Ryan Harrison, now on the ATP Tour. His family actually had a classified ad (back in 2009) with Bob Larson (TennisNews.com) in their search for a coach. I emailed my résumé packet to Bob and talked to Bob on the phone about it. Bob would not tell me who the client was, but I was able to find out through other means. I never received a response.
Earlier this year, it was announced that Ryan was looking for a new coach, so I sent him an email through his agent Fernando Soler of IMG notifying him of my availability and interest. Again I never received a response, and he isn’t winning consistently.
I spent considerable time trying to convince Serbian touring pro Jelena Jankovic to give me the two- to three-week trial that is afforded many coaches prior to their ultimate hire (or rejection). This was when she still lived in South Florida; I sent a résumé packet to her home.
I never heard from her and to our surprise, she selected someone named Ricardo Sanchez. We all had to Google his name in order to figure out whom he had coached (Marion Bartoli for a brief period). When she got rid of him later on, I tried having the WTA Tour office in St. Petersburg, Florida forward my packet again to Jelena at her new residence in San Diego, California. Again, nothing.
The only other American player that I’ve recently approached is Melanie Oudin, due to the fact that it was announced that she had departed from her old coach. She decided to work with Tom Gullikson, of the USTA’s cursed Player Development program, who couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag, in my honest opinion. He is not his late brother Tim, the former coach of Pete Sampras, but he is one of the clique boys.
Speaking of American players, I’ve always had the answer to the problems in Andy Roddick’s game. In fact, I told it to ESPN’s Scoop Jackson for an article that Scoop wrote for ESPN’s Page 2 some years ago about Andy Roddick’s changing attitude (arrogance). But the sabotage of my career by the American tennis establishment has produced a boomerang effect on American tennis and therefore on Andy Roddick too.
No one has been able to correct the problem with Roddick’s game and, additionally, now everyone wants to know what’s wrong with American tennis. I have the answers to both.
As it relates to institutional tennis coaching in Florida, back in the late ’90s both men’s and women’s tennis team head coach positions at my alma mater, the University of Florida, came open at the same time. Accordingly, I applied.
Prior to the date of the interviews, I had a phone conversation with a lady who was the Associate Athletics Director for women and she was very excited about the prospect of my coaching the women’s team, especially because Venus and Serena were tearing up pro tennis at that time as well as my being a Gator alum (I don’t believe that she was advocating for the men’s team as this was not her area).
From the conversation, you could surmise that she felt that there were too many benefits to be had by the Florida Gators with my potential hire. But she ended the conversation by pointing out that the final decision would be made by AD Jeremy Foley, a man about whom I join former Gator national championship coach Steve Spurrier in not having feelings that are favorable. I was the only world-class coach to apply, and I didn’t get even an interview. UF has never had an African-American male as a head coach in its athletics program.
Of course, you are already familiar with this year’s application for me to become the Head Coach, Women’s Tennis at the University of North Florida here in Jacksonville. Again I was the only world-class coach to apply, and I didn’t get even an interview. Additionally, UNF selected an extremely less qualified person (a white female named Audra Cohen) to be the new head coach.
Hence, I filed an employment discrimination action with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against UNF and its Athletics Director, William Lee Moon.
Let me remind you that UNF passed up the opportunity to hire a world-class professional tennis coach (the highest level of tennis coach) who is associated with two players that will be remembered throughout history as two of the greatest to ever play the game, due to their dominance.
And, UNF is not a Top-10, second 10, third 10 or even Top-75 school in NCAA Division I tennis. This was a great opportunity for such a school to put its program on the map. But it’s also important to note that UNF continues to have no African-American males as head coaches in its athletics program.
As for the USTA’s High Performance/Player Development department, I have been rejected for national coach positions at least a dozen times over the years. How did I learn that I was rejected? Because I am not there. That’s how I have always found out. They have never informed me through any type of communication.
2. Do you think that racism is as big of a problem today as it was 10 or 20 years ago?
Yes!!! Especially when it comes to tennis coaching positions. Look at the numbers. Of over 300 NCAA D1 schools, only two have African-American males as head tennis coaches, LSU and Georgia Tech. Of the top-100-ranked tennis touring pros on the men’s and women’s tours, respectively, zero have African-American male professional coaches out of a possible 200 coaches (not counting parents pretending to be coaches); of the top-150-ranked tennis touring pros on the men’s and women’s tours, respectively, zero have African-American male professional coaches out of a possible 300 coaches; and on and on and on.
The numbers haven’t really changed, and I was fighting the same battle 20 years ago.
3. How does the USTA justify not hiring you as a coach?
I don’t know. I’ve never received a response, with or without an explanation. I imagine that their message to me is that I do not exist; that I’m not going to be allowed to sit in the front of the bus (so to speak).
Here’s a better question: How does the USTA justify the hiring of Ricardo Acuna of Chile as a national coach, then to promote him to senior national coach when I can’t get even real consideration?
When Acuna was the Head Pro, then the Director of Tennis at the now-defunct ATP Tour Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida that he and Brian Gottfried, in my opinion, destroyed, a few of his students left him to train with me and I can tell you first hand just how deficient—even pathetic—he is as a coach or mere tennis instructor. But he is now a senior national coach? He’s not even from this country!
If the readers want to learn more about Ricardo Acuna’s antics, then the readers should read the tennis exposé athttp://protennisexpose.net/ and The Amer Delic Coach Controversy, which describes how Acuna was caught attempting to steal Delic from me.
If the readers want to learn more about Ricardo Acuna’s antics, then the readers should read the tennis exposé athttp://protennisexpose.net and “The Amer Delic Coach Controversy” at http://delic-controversy.magian10S.com, which describes how Acuna was caught attempting to steal Delic from me. [see footnote 1 below]
4. Have you ever considered becoming the coach of a big-name player outside of the US, or is racism as big a deal elsewhere?
Are you kidding? I’ve gone after too many foreign players to name. The problem was that I usually had to attempt to contact the players through some of the very agents that were refusing to recommend me to their clients because I had no other way of making contact. I even attempted to contact a few players through the player relations office of the respective tours. But I have never received any type of response.
I pulled away from pursuing American players, for the most part, back in 1999 when that investigative exposé was put on the Internet about me, detailing how I was being attacked and/or blackballed by Americans and the American tennis establishment (www.protennisexpose.net). I also learned from that exposé how the USTA seemingly was empowering and rewarding the perpetrators with jobs each and every time something was done to me by them, respectively.
In addition to what you read about Jelena Jankovic above, here is another example. I have five years of emails to Ana Ivanovic’s manager Dan Holzmann, who is in Germany, and his assistant Gavin Versi in my continued attempt to coach Ana.
When Ana was changing coaches nearly every week, I emailed Dan (and Gavin) each time and accurately predicted why it would not work out. Dan only got angry with me when I predicted that Steffi Graf’s old coach, Heinz Gunthardt, would not be a good fit.
When Ana eventually split with Heinz, I believe that they put a spin on the truth about why. Five years of trying to coach that girl! Ana gave the dog catcher a try-out, but I could not get one considering my coaching accomplishments. I gave up when she chose Nigel Sears as her new saviour.
Oh! Did I fail to mention the Anna Kournikova thing? Years ago, someone in a tennis chat room mentioned that Anna Kournikova might want to consider hiring me to coach her due to her inability to win a pro tournament. From there a vicious rumor was started that I thought that I was too good to coach Kournikova.
Accordingly, I received some stinging denunciations through my old, original MAGIAN World-Class Tennis website (the one that won six international awards before being lost by the host company). I was being hit so venomously that I put a pop-up on my website to indicate that it was not me and that I had learned that Anna Kournikova’s agent, Phil DePicciotto, felt that I was not good enough to coach Kournikova (I learned this from someone who was around him almost everyday).
Therefore I put his email address and phone number in the pop-up for folks to contact him instead of attacking me because I had never been offered the job, yet more having refused to coach her. Imagine that, Kournikova couldn’t buy a win, but Phil decided that I was not good enough. OMG! the inmates have been released from the asylum and are now posing as agents.
A few months ago, I sent a note to Maria Sharapova’s agent, Max Eisenbud of IMG, offering to fix her double-faulting problem. No response.
Last month, Rebecca Marino of Canada announced that she was looking for a new coach. Therefore I sent her a message indicating my availability and interest. Additionally, I emailed her mother, who usually serves as her manager. No response.
I believe that throughout the international tennis community there is a perception that is nurtured by the American tennis establishment and fostered by the American sports press, including ESPN, that blacks are not good enough at tennis to be coaching at the highest levels.
I’ve had whites who were bold enough to say this directly to my face as well as to have had whites confide to me that that’s what is being said privately or secretly. The message is being sent around the world “loud and clear” when I cannot get any positive or sustained positive press even when my coaching accomplishments are far and beyond many white coaches that are being given, not only the two- to three-weeks trial with a touring pro but the actual coaching contract.
In the words of a white, retired Air Force colonel, he said to me that the problem that I pose for (bigoted) whites in tennis is that I am in a sport that I’m not supposed to be in due to the “mental” requirements of the sport, inferring that blacks aren’t mental (smart) enough.
Then here I come destroying the stereotype which becomes a source of embarrassment to those that have to compete against me, when my players produce far better and more dynamic results than my white counterparts.
The retired Colonel indicated that the one consistent way that my counterparts could guarantee my defeat was to make sure that I was not there (coaching)—at all! In that way, they would not have to suffer any humiliation from being consistently out-performed by a black coach. So the plan has been, all along, to eliminate the threat—me!—from the sport. (They have been quite successful, but I feel that this has contributed to the demise of American tennis.)
As I said to some ESPN execs, the tennis touring pros too are at the mercy of the tennis press when it comes to knowing what coaches are out there when they are looking to hire. ESPN is the absolute worst when it comes to hyping their favorite coaches and acting as their publicist. So, as a result, the players get victimized with ESPN’s multi-million dollar valued PR or advertising that is given to their favorite coaches for free.
You want to talk about an (illegal) unfair trade practice or advantage, how can I (or any other non-favorite good coach) compete with that?
5. When is the last time you have approached the USTA about a job?
A few years ago. I gave up.
Also, at the risk of sounding arrogant, Patrick McEnroe simply is not good enough to be my boss. Just because his brother, John, was able to extort the USTA into hiring him by constantly blasting the USTA during his broadcast commentating on CBS Sports (and other networks) does not mean that Patrick knew or knows how to coach and/or should have been hired (at almost three quarters of a million dollars per year, according to Sports Business Daily (http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2009/11/20091123/This-Weeks-News/USTA-Paid-Kantarian-$9M-In-08.aspx.).
Also, Patrick McEnroe had no administrative background and/or experience to be the top administrator of competitive tennis while I cannot be hired by the USTA for any position with my being a paralegal, a former Commissioner of the Jacksonville Community Relations Commission, a former Hearings Officer for the State of Florida, as well as the former lead financial analyst (in lending administration) for the former third largest bank in Florida. (And all of that is aside from my exceptional accomplishments as a tennis coach.)
Remember the sequence? John McEnroe blasted the USTA and the Davis Cup team during just about all of the broadcasts that he worked. That caused the USTA to hire John as Davis Cup captain (coach) in order to shut him up.
After one year, John passed the baton to his brother who had no prior coaching experience. Suddenly Patrick was pushed on all of us by the USTA and his publicist, ESPN, as the new savior of American tennis. And John has kept his mouth shut ever since his brother has been at the helm, no matter how much Patrick has failed, as well as no matter how much Patrick has overly inflated the budget or costs while not producing commensurate results for the incredible increase in expenditures (see the excellent Charles Bricker article on this at http://www.worldtennismagazine.com/archives/3175)
6. Which one is more important to the USTA: race or credentials (for example being the Williams sisters’ ex-coach)?
The overwhelming evidence points to race, considering that the USTA has had to settle out-of-court two high-profile racial discrimination federal lawsuits in the last five years.
One case involved a black male, former ITF gold badge chair umpire, Cecil Hollins, who was robbed of his position; and the other involved a black female, former top-10 touring pro Zina Garrison, who was robbed of her Fed Cup coach position in favor of a white female.
During the time of the Hollins case, the USTA also had to settle out-of-court with the State of New York and its (then) Attorney General Eliot Spitzer regarding its discriminatory practices, a case for which I was interviewed for over an hour by Spitzer’s Assistant AGs and investigators (I was interviewed about what happened to me when I was a USTA-certified official, how I too was robbed of my certification and the complaint that I filed with the USTA that was thrown in the trash).
Considering these things, it has to be race because my credentials and accomplishments are better than most, if not all, of those that they hire. After all, I am a bald man, and we have a history of being discriminated against down through history (LOL).
7. Do you feel as if this race problem and the hiring of coaches problem overall is the main issue with American tennis today?
Favoritism, which can include race. If you know the personnel and their history around tennis, Patrick McEnroe has inflated the salaries expense on the USTA’s profit and loss or income statement because he has made sure that just about all of “the boys” are being paid six-figure welfare checks for their inabilities to coach.
What’s wrong with American tennis?
Summarily, the USTA and ESPN, as previously outlined.
The USTA has thrown and continues to throw money at a feigned solution. It has been a very effective PR ploy for them over the years, as it has kept the attention away from those at USTA that constitute the bulk of the malaise. This is a very old hat trick that has led to where we are now.
The USTA is suffering the effects of karma due to its overwhelming and non-ending favoritism. And the USTA’s player development/high performance program remains a joke, no matter how much the USTA’s friends in the press deceive people about its goodness as well as how much they try to hype Patrick McEnroe, which includes ESPN-Tennis.
The quality tennis folk always have been and continue to be locked out in favor of the clique members. As the old adage goes, “If you put the same crap in, you get the same crap out.”
8. Was Donald Young a victim of a similar problem with the USTA?
Hell yes! But Donald was pressured into relenting, after his Twitter outburst, in order to keep the player development money. He was encouraged and forced to play ball (politically speaking). They changed the rule on Donald. It’s what the New York Times’ William Rhoden, in his book 40 Million Dollar Slaves, termed as “the jockey syndrome” (Google it).
Tennis performance, in a general sense, is based on how a player performs roughly 70 percent of the time, because on any given day anything can happen. It’s about consistency. On any given day, a lower-ranked player can have a great moment and defeat a top-10 player. But the lower-ranked player cannot sustain such greatness, and that’s why they remain lower ranked.
Donald Young, through ranking consistency, had earned the right to a wild card. But the rule was changed on him where players had to play a “wild-card tournament” which allowed for a lower-ranked player to have a momentary great day thereby defeating him in a makeshift playoff to earn the wild card.
Such a move is absolutely insane and is therefore consistent with the USTA’s player development department as run by Patrick McEnroe. The lower-ranked player is lower ranked because he/she cannot win as consistently as those above him/her! So Donald felt slighted and that he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.
Here’s the kicker: This is not the first time that the rule has been changed in order to block an African-American player from getting a wild card. In fact, there were picketers outside of the US Open for several years.
The same rule change was done to Mashiska Washington, younger brother of former ATP Tour player MaliVai Washington, where he had consistently earned the right to a wildcard with his higher ranking, but some USTA empowered racist(s) wanted a white player to have the wildcard (see http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/story?id=100714&page=1). Historically, the only time that “other factors” go into the issuance of wildcards instead of ranking position is when the powers that be want to eliminate someone from having the wildcard that they want to give to someone else. The “other factors” statement is pretextual, in legal jargon.
The improper awarding of wild cards is but one of the contributing factors to the demise of American tennis, albeit not a major one. How can a wild card be awarded to a player that has not proven himself or herself to be deserving by the consistent production that is shown through ranking? Instead, the wild cards, at times, are being siphoned off to give to a favorite. And people have the nerve to ask what’s wrong with American tennis?!
Footnote from King:
 “I am the coach that made Bosnian refugee Amer Delic into the stellar junior player that played in the prestigious Orange Bowl International Jr. Championship’s 16s draw when he was only 14; a draw that had now-former ATP Tour pro star Marat Safin as the No. 2 seed and a draw that longtime ATP Tour No. 1 ranked Roger Federer wasn’t good enough to make. At the age of 14, Delic was ranked in the top 50 of the USTA/Florida’s highly competitive men’s open division under my coaching. This is the same Amer Delic that later went on to become an NCAA national single’s champion and is now an ATP touring pro.
 The actual employment discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. EEOC against the University of North Florida can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/unf-suit.
Exclusive Interview with Williams Sisters’ Ex-Coach: Racism in USTA Coach Hiring
December 16, 2011 By 10 Comments
BY: Blaise Malley