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TENNIS / DANA HADDAD : Xanthos Continues to Hold Court

October 21, 1994|DANA HADDAD

So Paul Xanthos has retired. Do you think he's slowed down?

He hasn't had the chance.

Xanthos, who in 1993 retired as the Pierce College men's tennis coach after leading the Brahmas to 23 conference championships in 29 seasons, has continued to coach part time when he is not running around the country accepting awards.

Xanthos, 73, was given outstanding service awards by organizers of the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament in April and the board of trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District in June. In July, he was the first inductee into the American Hellenic Educational Program Assn. Sports Hall of Fame--the largest Greek-American service organization in the world.

But those were mere tokens of appreciation.

In May, Xanthos was the first junior college coach to be inducted into the NCAA/Intercollegiate Coaches Assn. Hall of Fame. Two weeks ago he was named Coach of the Year by the United States Professional Tennis Assn. for the second time.

"You start way down at the bottom of a pyramid, but when you reach the Hall of Fame you reach the top of the pyramid," Xanthos said. "A lot of coaches don't think a JC coach belongs."

But Xanthos is the exception, not merely because he had a 550-94 record at Pierce--including conference winning steaks of 96, 50, 37 and 27 matches--and won 25 championships in tennis, basketball and cross-country in 17 years at North Hollywood High.

Xanthos is considered a pioneer in teaching players and other coaches en masse. The United States Tennis Assn. considers him a pioneer of its many instructional techniques and programs.

Ron Woods, USTA director of player development, said Xanthos' ideas paved the way for its Schools Program and National Teachers Conference. Former Princeton women's Coach Eve Kraft remembers how Xanthos traveled from state to state introducing tennis at schools during the 1960s.

"That was two decades before the USTA's School Program was developed," said Kraft, a Xanthos colleague on the USTA Education and Resources Committee. "People today do not realize that Paul's efforts helped lay the groundwork for the current program."

Kraft said Xanthos also introduced group teaching at a Midwest coaches' convention in 1969. Shown there were old film clips of Xanthos and a throng of North Hollywood physical education students practicing forehand, backhand and service strokes in unison. Thus the Midwesterners got their first glimpse of group lessons, which Xanthos had started nearly two decades earlier.

"Many of the pros in the audience could not believe it was possible," she said.

The world tennis community still seeks his expertise. Xanthos spent three weeks last fall conducting workshops in Greece and might do the same in Egypt in December. A corporation in Taiwan has asked Xanthos to serve as a consultant in starting its own governing body, much like the USTA. In a Japanese tennis magazine, a well-recognized Xanthos endorses Converse shoes.

The week he retired from Pierce, Xanthos became director at the Burbank Tennis Center. With Xanthos aboard, the City of Burbank decided to redevelop McCambridge Park. It plans to add a championship court and modern clubhouse.

He continues to teach young players, sometimes free of charge. Recent students include Nick Tatsis and Sofia Managadze, prodigies from Greece and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

"I've been coaching for over 45 years and I'm still attending clinics, taking notes, filming videos," Xanthos said. "If you're going to coach, you've got to give back."

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Top Seed grows: Top Seed Tennis Academy, which transformed the once-floundering, now burgeoning Calabasas Park Tennis Club in one year, now hopes to do the same at North Ranch Tennis Club in Westlake Village.

Dexter MacBride, formerly adult development pro at Calabasas, took over as head pro at North Ranch earlier this month. Director and manager Steve McAvoy and head pro Desi McBride will continue to run Calabasas, which has a successful junior program that attracted over 300 players to its summer camps and has a core group of 90.

MacBride said North Ranch has no junior tennis program but he expects Top Seed to eventually compete at a high level at this new facility. "There is enough people and enough interest in the sport--enough for everybody," said MacBride, 29, a five-year teaching pro and former nationally ranked junior player in Virginia.

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McClain to stay: Tennis Director Bill McClain has tentatively decided to remain at what is now the L.A. Fitness Warner Center Club.

McClain, who coaches Junior U.S. Open champion Meilen Tu of Northridge, was planning to leave the club in December because he was dissatisfied with the ownership. But L.A. Fitness, which bought the slumping club in September, asked McClain to assist in a rebuilding effort.

"I thought I'd be out of here--I was frustrated, tired, fed up," said McClain, 56. "But I've got a lot of kids I would hate to leave."

The new ownership has vowed to rebuild the clubhouse while assisting McClain in increasing tennis instruction and building a junior program.

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