Anytime you're playing tennis in Charleston, college tennis' winningest Division I coach might be watching. Charleston native Paul Scarpa has returned to the area after serving 45 years as Furman's men's tennis coach.
Scarpa still represents Furman, even if not in quite the same manner as when he directed the Paladins to a record 853 wins as well as 17 Southern Conference regular season titles and 14 tournament championships. His job these days is as a special assistant to the president.
When Scarpa decided to leave his coaching behind on the courts at Furman in the summer of 2011, it was only natural for him to want to return home, especially since his wife Sandy also was excited about the move. They still own a home at Travelers Rest.
Furman made the choice even easier with the tag of ambassador at large.
“Furman wants more awareness in Charleston,” Scarpa said. “We bought a home in Mount Pleasant and have been here a little more than a year. I get to spend more time with Sandy now that I've retired from coaching.”
But Scarpa still stays busy, assisting Furman in the areas of admissions, alumni relations and development. Not to mention that he might show up for any tennis match in town.
Just last year, he was enshrined into two more halls of fames. The college tennis hall of fame and the Southern Conference hall of fame were added in 2012 to his growing list of hall of fame recognition that includes Southern tennis and Furman and South Carolina athletic halls. He also received the Order of the Palmetto in 2012.
Scarpa can talk all day about his memories. And rightly so. There have been enough achievements for a team of coaches.
He likes to point out that four of his Furman players were All-Americans (James Cameron, John Chesworth, Don Barton and Ned Caswell), especially Caswell, who also played college basketball and started out as the No. 14 player on Scarpa's tennis roster.
Scarpa operated a summer tennis camp at Furman for 42 years, but after helping out last year he is leaving the camp behind. “Four kids that I coached at the camp later played at Wimbledon. Ned (Caswell) beat Patrick McEnroe and some other well-known players,” he said.
Scarpa was all about tennis, but he wasn't just tennis in his early days at Furman. He was an assistant basketball coach to Frank Selvy for two years and he started the Paladins' soccer program.
The Florida State graduate and former No. 1 player served as tennis coach at his alma mater for one year and two years at Navy before finding a home in Greenville.
From a Furman tennis program that “didn't have a lot of money,” he masterminded the construction of a state-of-the-art four-court indoor facility on campus. He even built a 12-court off-campus complex that he owned.
One of the highlights of Scarpa's achievements was the development of a new dual match scoring system that the NCAA implemented in 1993 and still uses. The Scarpa System puts added emphasis on doubles by playing the three doubles matches prior to singles and awarding one point to the team that wins doubles.
“It used to be that fans would come watch singles and then leave,” he said. “Now, they come watch doubles and leave.”
Looking back over his career, he said, “I loved every minute of it. I'm most proud of what I was able to do with what we had.”
Charleston product Anderson Scarpa and his Mercer University teammates face Coastal Carolina on Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. at The Citadel tennis complex. Scarpa is a freshman on full scholarship and is expected to contend for a starting spot in the middle of the lineup.
City of Charleston tennis manager Peggy Bohne is already planning another season of the popular Tri-County Elementary and Middle School League. Play will run March 11-May 17, but schools fielding teams in the league are required to be represented at one of three mandatory coach's meetings (Jan. 14 at 5 p.m., Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. or Jan. 27 at 3 p.m.). Meetings will be held at Charleston Tennis Center (766-7401) at 19 Farmfield Ave.
Daniel Island's Shelby Rogers moved up six more places since December to 209th in the world after climbing almost 200 places in the WTA Tour rankings in six months.
Next Friday is the deadline for forming a league tennis team for the spring season.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.