I once asked Larry Vaught, the esteemed and well-respected Kentucky sportswriter, why he didn’t write books for a living. After all, he’s supremely gifted, survived multiple media wars, and has enough golden stories stockpiled in his memory arsenal to fill Fort Knox.
“Too much work,” he replied dismissively. “I live a good life. Why ruin it?”
Larry was absolutely right. If you want to dive head first into a project that will eat up your valuable time, drive you batty in the process, and provide pennies on the dollar in royalty returns, then writing a book is right up your alley. In other words, DON’T DO IT…unless…
Unless you have a story to tell.
I’ve always loved tennis. I was quick on my feet and could endlessly run that baseline. What I lacked in true skill and athleticism, I more than made up with interest and enthusiasm. I was so dedicated to that fuzzy yellow ball that one summer I even received a free t-shirt as champion of the intermediate division of my Shillito Park recreation league. I was your proverbial student of the game and followed its stars with unbridled passion.
So, imagine my surprise when the great Coach Dennis Emery approached me to collaborate on his upcoming book project. Realizing that this was the great Dennis Emery—the winningest tennis coach in University of Kentucky history and one of the most decorated coaches in the collegiate game—I jumped at the chance.
Here was a Hall of Fame inductee with six hundred and fifty-five head coaching career wins, twenty-three NCAA tournament appearances, and three SEC championships teaching me intricacies about the game I loved and telling me stories about the greats I idolized.
Here was a legend who had coached thirty-nine All-Americans, three of whom advanced to the NCAA tournament singles final. Talk about living the dream. As John McEnroe once famously said, “You cannot be serious!”
What resulted is a book that both of us are extremely proud of. It’s first and foremost a labor of love. It’s a legacy book where Coach Emery wanted to share his tennis experience with other up-and-coming coaches looking to develop players and build their teams. As the youngest full-time head coach in the history of college tennis, he took a dormant program with no facilities and built it into a national juggernaut.
“Coach Emery transformed the University of Kentucky’s men’s tennis program into one that is a perennial power and competes at the highest level annually,” Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari wrote in the book’s foreword. “And the greatest testament to him and what he built? It has sustained success even with him no longer at the helm.”
If you hadn’t noticed, Kentucky Tennis remains a highly ranked program and still competes regularly for conference and national titles. And yet, it consistently flies under the radar. Given its accomplishments on the court, it’s arguably the most under-appreciated athletic program on the Wildcat campus. Not surprisingly then, there is little recorded about the star players of the past and their epic achievements. Anyone looking into the program’s history will soon discover that there’s simply no place to dig.
“It dies with me,” Coach Emery sadly lamented when I shared that reality with him.
No it doesn’t, Coach. Let’s preserve it right here. Let’s share it with the rest of the world.
BOY, DO WE HAVE A STORY TO TELL!
Click here to purchase your copy https://www.amazon.com/Serving-Up-Winners-Building-Program/dp/B0BYRDRKWF
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist, military veteran, and award-winning author. He currently serves as a freelance reporter and sports columnist. He is the author/coauthor of three other books, CUT TO THE CHASE, KENTUCKY PASSION, and FROM THE RAFTERS OF RUPP. You can contact him at www.Huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.