Scott McCain didn't exactly come riding into Berkeley on a white horse to rejuvenate California's tennis program. Limping was more like it.
When a series of knee injuries helped propel McCain into an early exit from the Grand Prix circuit, he became the men's coach in August.
Goodby John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Boris Becker. Hello UCLA, USC, Stanford.
After just three months on the job, it still remains to be seen which trio is more formidable for the former Cal player.
"Ask me next year whether it's been a tough transition," the 28-year-old McCain said.
By that time, he'll have experienced playing the Big Three in dual meets and countless invitational tournaments. Again. This time, however, McCain will be sitting in a chair watching his players chase shots against UCLA, USC and Stanford.
' 'I felt the Cal program was a bit stagnated," McCain said. "They had talent, but they weren't maximizing their potential. I felt they had the attitude they weren't going to beat USC, UCLA and Stanford. I had beat them when I was there.
"Sure, you might lose, but you have to give it your best shot. They can't go out there thinking they're not as good as them. That's half the battle."
Well, at least there's no danger of an inferiority complex with one of McCain's players. In one day, Steve DeVries beat two players from Big Three schools.
First, he defeated Dan Nahirney of UCLA, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, in the second round of the Volvo/All-American Tennis Championships Friday at the L.A. Tennis Center.
Then in the quarterfinals, DeVries downed second-seeded Luke Jensen of USC, 6-3, 7-6. At first glance, that might look like an upset because DeVries is seeded eighth.
But don't take too much stock in the seedings because DeVries is the defending champion. He beat another USC player, Rick Leach, in last year's final.
After winning the All-American title, DeVries struggled in the spring. He suffered a hand injury in April, then suffered a bunch of losses to lesser-known players. Which is why DeVries finished 20th in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Assn. poll. Thus, the explanation for the No. 8 seeding.
In the match against Jensen, DeVries started having problems with his serve in the second set. Jensen came back from a 3-4 deficit and served for the set at 6-5. In all, Jensen squandered three set points in the 12th game. He double faulted on his third set point, sending it into a tiebreaker.
"I just wanted to make him win it," DeVries said. "I didn't want him to win it on my mistake. That was definitely a momentum swing when he double faulted."
DeVries won the tiebreaker, 7-5, when Jensen hit a passing shot in the net.
"I think the fact that I won it last year has really helped," DeVries said.
Said McCain: "He wasn't so great against Luke. But there's a lot to be said for winning when you aren't on top of your game. Steve finds a way to win. It's a lot harder when things aren't going as well."
And it didn't hurt getting advice at courtside from another former champion. McCain won the tournament in 1979 when he was a senior.
Even when McCain was on the tour, he maintained his ties with the Cal program. So, when former coach Bill Wright decided to become coach at Arizona, McCain's name came up immediately.
"When he (Wright) left, he felt I'd be the guy for the job," McCain said. "The one who could turn the program around. If he had told me not to do it, not to take the job, I probably wouldn't have taken the job. That's how much I respect his opinion."
DeVries has felt comfortable with both coaches.
"I liked everything about Bill," he said. "Scott has his own way of doing things. I feel he has brought some energy to the program. He is enthusiastic about practice, and he motivates us."
McCain, who has career victories over Miloslav Mecir, Joakim Nystrom and Wojtek Fibak, thinks his background playing on the pro tour is a definite advantage.
"I don't see my age as a disadvantage." he said. "I played against the likes of the best in the game for six years. It is one thing to see it, it is another to be a part of it."
In today's semifinals, Steve DeVries plays fourth-seeded Stefan Kruger of SMU, and top-seeded Richey Reneberg of SMU meets Philip Johnson of Georgia. Kruger, who is from South Africa, defeated Stanford's Patrick McEnroe, 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Reneberg beat sixth-seeded Ville Jansson of Northeast Louisiana, 7-5, 6-0. Johnson defeated Shelby Cannon of Tennessee, 6-3, 6-0.