Following 32 dominant years as head coach of the Georgia men’s tennis team and in the onset of year 33, Manny Diaz is still nowhere near thinking about retiring.
Even after becoming the winningest tennis coach in SEC history on March 1, Diaz said if anything he has become more resolute in his convictions to bring more championships to Athens.
“I still feel the drive to compete for, and win championships here at the University of Georgia,” Diaz said.
Diaz is a UGA alumnus who played under the legendary head coach Dan Magill from 1972-1975. Not only did Magill coach Diaz, but he also was the previous holder of the winningest SEC coach prior to Diaz.
After earning All-American honors twice playing for the Bulldogs, Diaz returned to assume the mantle of head coach for Georgia in 1989. Since then, Diaz has won four NCAA national championships, earned multiple coaching honors and was selected into the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000.
For Diaz, his age and experience is the reason his drive to compete and win have never been fiercer.
“As you go along in your coaching career, you learn more things and you have a bigger playbook and a little more knowledge,” Diaz said.
Diaz recognizes that knowledge of the game is not the only requirement for being a good coach. He views the importance of building personal relationships as crucial to realizing the potential of his players. He said tennis knowledge combined with personal relationships is essential to motivating and developing a championship-caliber team.
The focus of Diaz’s career remains on his players and helping them achieve their dreams whether those dreams are on the tennis court, in the classroom or in the workforce.
Diaz views tennis as a means for his players to “go to graduate school, law school, medical school or even compete [as a] professional on the World Tour like John Isner.”
Isner played at Georgia from 2004-2007 and was once named the No. 8 men’s singles player in the word by the Association of Tennis Professionals.
In this year of chaos concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on sports, Diaz still seems to have the grit and the heart to remain coaching at a high level.
Whoever is to replace him when retirement comes may not take up much of his time. But in the same way Diaz succeeded Magill, he believes looking in the direction of a former Georgia player is a good place to start.
"I believe there is a good number of former players that are out there that would do a tremendous job for the University," Diaz said, "Hopefully we can continue this great tradition."