By his own calculations, Richard Leach says he has clocked some
540,000 miles on the road, making the daily drive from his Laguna Beach
home to the University of Southern California campus for the past 23
It was there that Leach coached the Trojan men’s tennis team, and
while the Monday through Friday drive all those years may have been
monotonous, it has amounted to the trip of a lifetime.
“I have had a marvelous time. It has been 23 years worth of great
memories,” said Leach who, come June 1, will step down from his coaching
duties following the completion of the 2002 season.
“It was just time to step down,” he explained. “All I did was take the
torch from my coach, George Toley, and carried it for 23 years. Now it’s
time to pass it on to someone else.”
Leach, 62, will remain with the university as emeritus director of
men’s tennis. In his new role, he said, he will advise athletic director
Mike Garrett and the new men’s coach in the development of the program.
“I will work as a consultant in any way they may need me,” Leach said.
“It’s hard to quit coaching but this way, I still will be involved in
His replacement has yet to be named.
“We are losing a legend at USC and in the tennis community,” Garrett
Leach, indeed, will be hard to replace.
He led the Trojans to three national titles (1991, ’93, ’94), seven
conference championships and 22 postseason appearances.
His teams also advanced to the NCAA semifinals eight times and the
quarterfinal round on three occasions. He calls his 1987 squad, which was
32-0 before it lost in the NCAA semifinals to host Georgia before 6,000
fans in Athens, Ga., perhaps his best team.
He also won his first national title and tasted sweet revenge by
beating Georgia on its home court in Athens in 1993.
Leach was named national coach of the year twice (1987, ’91) and
Pacific-10 Conference coach of the year four times ('87, ’91, ’92, ’94).
He also produced 35 All-Americans during his tenure.
“I’ve accomplished everything that I set out to do when I took the job
in 1980,” he said.
He played for the Trojans as a freshman in 1958, and in the seasons
between ’59-'61. He earned All-American status as as senior.
To say that Leach bleeds Cardinal and Gold is an understatement. He
even coached two of his own children at the school. Rick and Jonathan --
both Laguna Beach High graduates -- starred for the Trojans.
Rick holds the distinction of being named the only four-time
All-American in both singles and doubles. He played for his father from
1984-'87. At 37 he is the oldest player -- he plays doubles -- on the
Assn. of Tennis Players tour.
Younger brother, Jonathan, played for USC between ’91-'94. He was a
two-time All-American and was on Trojan teams that won four Pac-10 titles
and three national championships.
You can feel Dick Leach beam with pride when he recalls the 1994
national final, played at the University of Notre Dame, against Pac-10
rival Stanford. With the match tied at 3-3, Jonathan was playing a
Stanford rival who had beaten him twice during the regular season. But
the third time turned out to be the charm for the younger Leach, who
defeated his opponent, and presented his father with his third NCAA
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Dick Leach said with a smile
coming through in his voice. “Not many fathers get to be with their sons
for four years, especially their college years.”
Dick Leach and his sons also have dominated father and son national
competitions. He has won nine national titles with Rick (between 1979 and
‘99) and four more with Jonathan (in the mid-1990s).
Rick also kept a promise he made to his mother, Sandra, when he was 6.
“He told my wife that he was going to win Wimbledon one day and if he
did, he’d buy her a car,” Dick Leach reminisced.
True to Rick’s prediction, he won the 1990 Wimbledon men’s doubles
title. And yes, true to his word, he presented his mother, who had driven
him to countless juniors tournaments as a youngster, a new Mercedes.
“We’ve had so much joy in these past 23 years,” Dick Leach said. “My
family and I will always cherish that. But now, I get to stay around the
house more with my wife.”
Dick Leach says he will now leave most of his driving to the range,
where he said he hopes to get his golf handicap down to “single digits.”
He says he’ll still play tennis four times a week but that retirement
will allow him to catch up on his reading, and play in his garden.
“We live in such a beautiful place,” he added. “I was on the road for
23 years, and now it’s time to stay closer to home.”