DURHAM, N.C. – Just after joining the Duke women’s tennis staff as an assistant coach, GoDuke.com caught up with Matt Manasse to learn more about the Boca Raton, Fla., native and what drew him to Duke University.
GoDuke.com: What brought you to Duke?
MM: There were many reasons I decided to come to the East Coast. One was family and the other was the Duke brand. After talking with [head coach] Jamie [Ashworth] about the history of the program, an institution with academic high standards and a tennis program that has done amazing things, including winning the national championship in 2009, it was a great fit. I’m just excited to be a part of it. It’s nice to wear the Duke blue.
GoDuke.com: What about Coach Ashworth’s philosophy meshed with you?
MM: We knew each other before I came, but I knew we were very similar from just talking on the phone. He is a very laidback guy who wants the players to work hard. He is super invested in everything related to the program. That is how I am as well. It’s going to be a great fit just personality wise. He has had a lot of success here, so to learn from him is going to be amazing.
GoDuke.com: What did you learn from Oklahoma State that you want to bring here?
MM: The hard work, sacrifice and amount of hours it takes to really succeed in college tennis. I also learned that you can relax and have fun when you put the hard work in. Once you get to the later stages, it’s all about letting the girls do what they do. The girls in college tennis are so talented that once you put in the hard work, it’s up to them to let their talent shine. You’re there to motivate and lead them in a certain way. Pretty much just put hard work and passion in everything you do. I learned that in the last two years.
GoDuke.com: What about the Duke student-athletes make you excited to work with them?
MM: At Oklahoma State, we had more of a foreign squad. Here at Duke, it’s mostly Americans with a couple foreigners splashed in. I haven’t met many of the players here yet, but from what I know, it’s a super-talented squad with highly ranked players coming in. I’m excited to start meeting them and begin to build relationships with them. It will all grow from there.
GoDuke.com: What did Oklahoma State head coach [Chris] Young teach you that you will carry with you forever?
MM: Coach Young was great to me. The biggest thing I learned there was the commitment to the job. Going in, I didn’t really understand what it took to maintain a championship standard and the amount of hours, commitment and sacrifice you have to have to the players. It was great to learn that commitment and hard work. I learned everything it takes to get to the highest levels. I believe I will bring all of that to Duke, even though it is already an established powerhouse.
GoDuke.com: How did coaching in the Big 12 help prepare you for the ACC?
MM: Every week in the Big 12 you’re going to have a very challenging match. You have to prepare your team that way and know there are no matches off. Every time you step on the court, you give your best effort because the opponent across the net is going to bring their A game. You have to do the same. The ACC is no different, maybe even harder to be honest. There are plenty of past champions in the ACC. There is never a week off, but I think that brings out the best in the players, especially when May comes along. You want to be challenged and battle tested early, so I think the ACC prepares you for the challenges you’ll face at NCAAs.
GoDuke.com: What is one thing you want to check out in Durham?
MM: When my girlfriend and I first got here, we went to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, which has about 50 acres and I’ve covered about two. I’m also a big food guy, and there are a million restaurants here I am excited about. It’s just an awesome spot.
GoDuke.com: What’s one thing Duke fans would be surprised to know about you?
MM: I’m a huge hockey fan, maybe just as much as tennis. The Penguins will always be better than the Bruins.