It was 1977. Our crowds outside were so big. In our old stadium, we could only seat about 800 people. ... We had some great players to watch in those days, and [fans] couldn't get in to the matches. So we thought, "Let's see if we can move these matches indoors to Maples Pavilion [at Stanford]."
So we played outdoors. Starting at noon, we played numbers three, four, five, and six singles, and followed by two and three doubles. And then at 6:30 with about a 45-minute or half-hour break, we go indoors to Maples, where we bought a big carpet from a Tucson pro tournament and laid it down in Maples.
In this particular match, we're playing UCLA at home. UCLA was a great rival of ours. Tennis was in the tennis boom right then. We had over 7,000 people in Maples. It wasn't quite sold out, but it was as close as you could be to being sold out. We had the band, the dollies, it was being broadcast on KZSU, our student radio station, and no one has left the place.
When we go indoors, the score is tied at three-all. We started with the No. 2 singles, followed on the one court by the No. 1 singles, followed finally by the No. 1 doubles. And the first match indoors, the No. 2 singles ... we lost that match in three sets, so now we're behind four, three. And then we win the next match, No. 1 match, and it's four-all [in team play]. And these are world-class players. It's quarter to one in the morning, nobody has left the place, people yelling like crazy ... all four players [in the final No. 1 doubles match] had a quick volley exchange, UCLA wins the point, wins the match, and my head goes down, my players' heads go down.
I go to bed that night, and I'm thinking in the middle of the night. I can't sleep. I'm worried, kind of darn, what a disappointing loss. And all of a sudden, it dawned on me that this was one of the greatest moments, and maybe the greatest moment ever, in college tennis history. We have over 7,000 people watching one match, on one court, and back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Bands going crazy, the dollies are out their dancing, and yet we lost it. And I'll never forget something that I saw, and I don't know who said it or who wrote it, but the statement was: "There can be glory even in defeat."
And so we came out to practice the next day, and my guys, I sat them on the court. I could tell they're dragging. I was still dragging frankly. I sat them down and said, "Guys, do you realize how lucky you were to be apart of this match on Saturday night?" And they looked at me like I was crazy, like coach, "We lost, what are you talking about?"
And I started to describe the moment, and what they had been a part of, and how well they'd prepared, and the fact that we still had time left in the season to recoup, and we could go either way after that match, and to realize that even if you get beat, if you put in the effort and give your best, it can be glorious, and they should hold their heads up. And we had a great practice that day. We went on, and we won the national championship over UCLA. So I think that was probably one of the best matches that I've ever been a part of.
Sometimes, you remember the losses more than the wins and how hard it is on the guys. … Resilience is such a big thing. Resilience is really, really important. It's something you can learn through sport. You have to learn through sport.
So good thing sport is not life or death. There's always a tomorrow in sport. That's the beauty of it.