Manny Diaz made his mark by becoming the SEC Coach of the Year in 1989, his first year as head coach of Georgia men’s tennis. Not only has Diaz earned that title six times, but he has also helped 36 players earn 86 total All-America Honors.
On March 1, Diaz surpassed the former record holder, Georgia legend Dan Magill, to become the winningest head coach in SEC history when Georgia defeated Ohio State on his home court, the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens.
“It was a tremendous, satisfying victory,” Diaz said.
Learning from the best
Magill led the Georgia tennis program for 34 years. During his time coaching the tennis team at Georgia, Magill became the all-time winningest coach of SEC history in NCAA Division 1 history with 706 wins and 183 losses.
“Coach Magill was a unique coach with an incredible personality,” Diaz said. “In many ways, he had a style of his own.”
When it comes to personality, Diaz said he is always himself. However, there are lessons that he said he borrowed from Magill, who he played under during his time as a student at Georgia.
In the beginning of his career, Diaz knew that he couldn’t try to be like Magill because the players would see that it wasn’t genuine. It was important that he differentiated his coaching style from Magill so that players saw him for who he was.
As of press time, Diaz holds 707 wins and 28 SEC Championships in 31 seasons under his belt. This season, the Bulldogs have a 7-2 record and a four-match winning streak.
“He is able to handle all of the aspects of coaching,” his wife Suzanne Diaz said. “Coaching is something that he was meant to do. The losses may hurt but he always handles them well. He moves on and doesn’t linger.”
Since 1989, things have changed when it comes to playing styles and how players can handle criticism. Changing in some ways is required to be able to understand the players year to year, and Diaz feels that he has handled the best way he could.
Diaz’s coaching style
As a younger coach, Diaz feels he was more bombastic. Although for current players it might be difficult to imagine, he was much louder and more emotional then. To him, being that coach now wouldn’t be right or genuine.
“I’ve never been a coach that would talk just for the sake of hearing myself talk,” Diaz said. “My style of coaching is very direct.”
Diaz has three sons, Manny, Erik and Alex. Two of his sons, Erik and Alex, have played under him with the Bulldogs.
“It was an honor that they wanted to be under him,” Suzanne Diaz said. “They always have those moments when you knew they were father and son. They were treated harder than most because they couldn’t receive that favoritism.”
Erik Diaz played for Georgia from 2011-2015. Alex Diaz is a junior at Georgia who has played with much success. He was ranked No. 17 nationally in the 2016 signing class, No. 5 in the southeast and No. 2 in Georgia. He also competed in the 2019 ITA All-America Championships.
“On the court, he has definitely helped me whenever I’m wrong,” Alex Diaz said. “Before matches, he knows what to say to all of the players. Everyone is different on how they handle being coached on the court and off and he is aware of that. He does his job in motivating us in every way he can.”
As far as gaming styles, coach Diaz feels that it is an easier adjustment.
“As a player, you play different styles,” Diaz said. “With a game, you are submerged into the styles of the other players.”
To Diaz, a key to good coaching is being able to relate to the players of a team and to keep up with where they are, so he doesn’t coach his players the same way. In order to maximize his players’ productivity, Diaz coaches them all a bit differently.
Humble through achievements
Suzanne Diaz said she is inspired by how her husband handles himself through his achievements. Magill had a great record at Georgia, and it thrills her knowing her husband has achieved something so important.
“He is a very humble person,” Suzanne Diaz said. “It doesn’t ever go [to] his head. He just takes it as a compliment.”
Though there are matches that end in losses, Diaz always makes sure to remind the players their worth and that no one is meant to be undefeated.
“On certain days, even if you get up late and victory tastes like dirt, you can look back and say, ‘I have prepared to the best of my ability,’” Diaz said.
What really matters to Diaz is making sure that his players never feel any regrets. Having few regrets with how they prepare and how they compete is vital. Diaz wants his players to keep their heads high knowing they did their best to achieve a good result.
Diaz feels the 707th win was a team accomplishment. Without his players, he wouldn’t have been able to achieve this title, as he recognizes that they are the ones that put in the work.
“When I step away from my profession, maybe then I will have a little time to reflect on all of the great achievements that all of my student athletes — us — have achieved,” Diaz said.