US Open: As Georgia as it Gets—John Isner Remembers Dan Magill

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By Bill Simons

Few players have had closer relationships with a coach than towering John Isner‘s with veteran Georgia coach Dan Magill. The beloved Magill was a sort of a father figure to Isner. After scoring a straight-set win over current NCAA champ Marcos Giron of UCLA in the first round here at the US Open, Isner spoke exclusively with inside Tennis about his mentor Magill, who died a few days ago at the age of 93:

What did Coach Magill mean to you?

He meant a lot to me, just as he meant a lot to so many people. He touched so many lives, and in all of Georgia Nation it’s a sad day, but really, his life should be celebrated—he lived the fullest life possible and he did so much. It’s tough not having him around anymore. He was one of a kind. He meant the world to me. He was really one of my biggest fans—he would call me all of the time on the phone.

What made him special?

He was a people’s person. He was so good at what he did, and not only coaching the tennis team. He did everything at Georgia, starting the Georgia Bulldog Club. He raised so much money for the school and for the tennis program. He was a promoter more than anything. He bled red and black—you hear that a lot, but he really did. No one was a bigger Georgia fan than Dan Magill.

Coach [Vince] Dooley said he was the ultimate Bulldog and expressed the Georgia spirit. What do you think that was?

He knew everything ahead of you. He had the press box named after him at Sanford Stadium. He knew so much. He was around for so long and he did what he did so well. He was the greatest Bulldog of all time, hands down.

Every pro has ups and downs. Did he help you at any time when you had little setbacks or bumps in the road?

Not tactically, but he would always call me and encourage me. It helped just hearing his voice, whether I had a big win or a bad loss. When I won that match at Wimbledon [against Nicholas Mahut in 2010], he was the first person I called.

There’s a story about him going into a coffee shop and saying, “I’ll have a Heineken, Hony-kin.” Was he a down home guy?

He was down home— he was as Georgia as it gets.

Do you think he should be in the International Tennis Hall of Fame?

One-hundred percent, yes.

What was it like going to Bulldog football games with him?

I got to watch some games up in the Dan Magill Press Box. He had a chair that said, “Dan Magill, Legend.” It was his own chair that obviously no one else could sit in.