Search for new coach becomes reunion for women’s tennis team

Aaron Blake

The University of Minnesota hired Jack Roach as the interim women’s tennis coach on Sept. 10.

Roach, who previously coached the Gophers from 1983-87, returns to the program enthusiastic about his fill-in role in the upcoming weeks.

“They called me up and wanted to know if I’d help out,” Roach said.

The University hopes to find a full-time replacement for former coach Martin Novak in the next three to four weeks. Novak left the Gophers for the same position at Maryland.

Roach was hired by the University because of his prior experience with the program. He’s lending a hand to a team in a tough situation

“They were kind of in a spot, and I’d (coached the team) before,” Roach said. “It was a lot easier for me to do it than somebody else.”

Roach has no aspirations to take over the head coaching role, though. He will work part time as an instructor at Interlachen Country Club while coaching at the University and will teach at the 98th Street Racquet Club after a permanent coach is named.

Roach played tennis for Macalaster College and graduated with a teaching degree in social studies and physical education in 1957. He later received his master’s degree in 1963 from St. Cloud State University.

He coached the United States men’s team in the 1967 Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg, Canada.

During this time, he shared a room with several players including tennis great Arthur Ashe. Roach has nothing but good things to say about Ashe and the time that he spent with him.

“He acted like you and I, he had no pretensions, and he had nobody waiting on him,” Roach said. He described Ashe as a very humble and friendly person as well as the best tennis player in the world at the time.

As the years ensued, Roach kept occasional contact with Ashe. When Ashe died from the AIDS virus in 1993, Roach felt a deep sense of loss for the tennis world and not just himself.

Roach has received acclaim on several occasions – both for his playing and coaching. He was named the outstanding professional of the year in 1977 by the Northwest Tennis Association for his teaching. In 1982, he was inducted into the Minnesota Tennis Hall of Fame.

“I’ve done a lot of things and I hope that part of (my induction) was as a player as well as the administrative part of it,” Roach said.

Roach’s other positions held include president of the United States Tennis Association northern section and president of the Tennis Professional Association locally.

He has also been head tennis professional for the 98th Street Racquet Club and coached for Edison and Kellogg High Schools in the Twin Cities.

Roach has high hopes for this year’s team, though he likely won’t finish the season with them. The team graduated only one senior but remains relatively young with three freshmen and only two seniors. The top three singles players remain from last season.

Roach is happy to be back at the University after 14 years and hopes to make the most of his remaining weeks before returning to his other jobs. He’s optimistic about the team’s talent and wants to jumpstart the upcoming season for the replacement coach.


Aaron Blake welcomes comments at [email protected]