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Men’s Tennis: Bayliss leaves a lasting legacy

Peter Steiner | Thursday, April 25, 2013

 

The Big East championships hosted by Notre Dame last weekend may have been Irish coach Bobby Bayliss’s last stand, as the T-shirts donned by the team and many fans at the Eck Pavilion stated. 

But the impact Bayliss has made on the program and the countless players he has coached will be felt for years to come. 

At the conclusion of this season, Bayliss will retire after a 44-year coaching career that includes 26 years with the Irish, three at MIT and 15 at Navy. Bayliss is the nation’s active career-wins leader with 765 victories, which places him fifth on the all-time list. The two-time national coach of the year will also be inducted into the ITA Men’s Collegiate Hall of Fame in May. 

But while Bayliss’ list of accolades is endless, the awards are not the first aspect of his coaching career that stands out. Rather, the relationships he has built with his players and his focus on their development as people represent the most important successes of his coaching career, Irish associate head coach Ryan Sachire said. 

“The No. 1 priority in his mind is making sure his guys develop as people, more so even than players,” Sachire said. “He certainly is more concerned about their well-being as human beings than he is about the well-being of their tennis games. He’s a compassionate guy. He’s a caring guy and he wants what’s best for his players at all times.”

The current Irish players certainly recognize the positive influence Bayliss has been for them, both on and off the court, Irish junior Ryan Bandy said. 

“Coach Bayliss has impacted all of us, both as players and as people,” Bandy said. “He’s made us all better individuals both on and off the court. … He just really cares about you as an individual and really looks out for your best interest.”

Although Bayliss’ top priority is helping his players become better people, he has also found considerable success on the court throughout his coaching career. 

The Irish have won eight Big East championships under his direction and seven of his teams advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament, with one team making an appearance in the NCAA championship match in 1992.

“He’s an extraordinary tennis mind,” Sachire said. “There’s no question about that. He knows the sport of tennis, honestly as well as any tennis coach out there. His level of experience, his level of expertise, his level of success is matched by very, very few.”

No matter what happens in the NCAA tournament starting May 10, this year’s team sent Bayliss out on a high note after winning the Big East championship Sunday by sweeping one of Notre Dame’s biggest rivals, Louisville, 4-0.

“[The players on this team] work hard, they don’t complain and they play pretty well,” Bayliss said. “It’s been a great group. Finishing the way we did [Sunday] against a rival on our home courts kind of wrapped it all up for me.”

At the end of this season, Bayliss will pass the torch to Sachire, who has a special relationship with Bayliss after playing for him from 1997 to 2000 and serving as his associate head coach for the last five years and assistant head coach for two years before that. 

“Coach Bayliss is like a second father to me,” Sachire said. “I’m closer to him, and he knows more about me and I know more about him probably than any two coaches in the country, because we’ve spent so much time together and been through so much together.

“It’s been an amazing journey with him.”

Although Bayliss will retire as the head coach, he will continue to work with Notre Dame as the manager of the tennis facilities. Though they will still see him, the players will miss having Bayliss as a coach, Bandy said.

“I think I’ll miss his jokes,” Bandy said. “A lot of the time when you’re on the court in a pressure situation, he’ll get you loosened up. He’ll crack a quick joke. And how much he cares about you. I’ll definitely miss that.

“But he’ll still be around so it’ll be good to see him next year.”

Not only will the players see him around next year, but more importantly, without Bayliss at the helm for the first time in 26 years, they may also recognize more fully the remarkable impact he had on the Notre Dame program.

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu