Coaching a Championship Team
Head coach Bruce Berque ’88 led the University of Texas men’s tennis team to the program’s first national championship.
It was a shock to everyone on the University of Texas men’s tennis team— including associate head coach Bruce Berque ’88—to hear that head coach Michael Center had been arrested as part of the college admissions bribery scandal that made headlines earlier this year.
It was mid-March—right in the middle of a season in which the Longhorns were title contenders.
With Berque elevated to interim head coach, the team played against Rice that day. Texas won the match and handled the subsequent media blitz.
Then, Berque made a key decision. He let the players take ownership of their fates.
“We had a team with a lot of seniors,” he said. “They got together on their own and decided they had put in a lot of time, energy, passion, blood, sweat, and tears—not just during their time at Texas but in their whole lives—just to get to this point.”
It worked. Two days later, they defeated Ohio State, then the No. 1 team in the country, and in May, Texas won the program’s first national championship.
The triumph was a storybook ending for Berque, who had questioned whether he wanted to stay in coaching after his tenure as head coach at the University of Michigan ended after 10 seasons. But he joined the Longhorns as a volunteer assistant in 2014, giving himself time to explore other options at the same time before being officially hired the following season.
Berque noted that he’s “pretty clear, purposeful, and demanding with on-court coaching.” That’s where he focused much of his energy. But with years of experience under his belt—coaching stops have included jobs at Haverford (with the women’s team), Florida, and Illinois—he knew a hands-off approach with this veteran squad would be the most effective.
“I learned over the years with other coaches I’ve worked with to have my voice not be the only voice of leadership,” said Berque, who had the “interim” tag lifted from his title in May. “Teams with best cultures have been player-driven. That was my goal and it worked out.”