By Noah Allison–
Athletic Director Tom Jurich arrived to U of L in 1997. Since, he has made changes and advancements that have thrust Louisville athletics into the forefront of national prominence.
Of Louisville’s 21 athletic programs, Jurich has hired the coaches for 20 of them. The only job that was set in stone before his arrival was the men’s tennis head coaching position. Filled and taken care of by none other than Rex Ecarma.
Q: Mr. Jurich, what went through your mind when Coach Ecarma reached his 400th career win?
A: Very proud of him, first of all. Rex has been just a great coach, not only on the court but also off the court. He is a wonderful ambassador for the community and I think the entire community at large, not just the tennis community, really thinks the world of him.
He’s everything you would want in a head coach. He cares so much about his student athletes, he cares for the program, he’s very competitive, which I like, and he’s somebody that’s very progressive. And you don’t find that all the time, you don’t find that mix in one person all the time. I’ve sure enjoyed my 18 years here with him and I hope we have another 18 together. He’s just one of a kind.
Q: In the spectrum of athletics that you’ve been a part of, have you ever met someone with as stable of a career as Ecarma? He went from water boy, to playing for the school to almost immediately coaching here at U of L.
A: Well, I think that’s a unique situation, but that’s a credit to him that he had the persistence to do that and that he could persevere through the downsides of it too. When your young there is not a whole lot of downsides to anything, so there aren’t as many obstacles. But any obstacles there were, are just speed bumps to Rex, because he eats problems up like they’re candy.
It’s just a credit to see the longevity in his career, and I think that he’s just scratching the surface now that we’re in the ACC. I think it’s going to give him an unbelievable platform to work from. From a recruiting stand point and a competitive standpoint, I think he is going to be one of the elite coaches in this country if he isn’t already there.
Q: I’m sure you have some perspective on it, but how tough must it have been for him when he began coaching? He was 23 years old, coaching college kids just a few years younger than him.
A: That’s something him and I have a lot in common. I was the youngest Division I athletic director in the country, and still am to this day when I was given the job at Northern Arizona University at 29 years old. So, it was probably a lot of the same challenges that he had. The only difference is I had it for an entire athletic department. A lot of that you have to do by the seat of your pants and you have to go from your gut. Make a lot of decisions from your gut and there’s nobody I would have trusted more to make those decisions at that age then Rex.
Q: What has set Rex aside, considering you’ve hired a head coach for every sport here except men’s tennis, because he already had that taken care of?
A: Well he’s great. It’s just been great to watch him grow and I want him to stay here for a long, long time. He’s terrific and I think attrition happens on a natural basis a lot of times and a lot of times you have to make changes. For him I think he’s found a great home here and we love having him, so it’s a great match for both of us.
Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal