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Friday, February 9, 2024

My Thoughts on the Passing of Andy Brandi

Brandi spoke at the USTA coaches reception
 honoring him as a legendary coach

I heard about Andy's death yesterday evening and decided against including it in my post because I wanted to collect my thoughts while I processed the sad news. Andy was such a vibrant and passionate presence in the tennis world that I never considered there could come a time when he would not be around, and I admit I did not know he was ill, as I had not seen him in several years. All who knew him will mourn his passing and I want to extend my deepest condolences to his family, which I knew he cherished, often speaking about them in our many conversations over the years.

I met Andy a few years after I started this website, when he was a partner at the Harold Solomon Tennis institute in Fort Lauderdale. He had left the women's head coaching job at the University of Florida in 2001 after 17 years, having won three NCAA team championships in the Gators' eight appearances in the finals during his tenure. While he was at Solomon's, he was a part of a regular Coaches Q and A feature here at zootennis.com, writing 18 installments on topics ranging from cheating, to playing in the wind, to choosing a college, to choking. (I am linking to all 18 here). One of the most popular Zootennis.com posts ever is his answer to "What's a Heavy Ball and How Do I Hit One?", which 15 years after he wrote it, is still found and read many times every month.

The Need for Independent Thinking

Playing Up

Dealing with Cheating

How Do I Market Myself to College Coaches?

The importance of Doubles

The Difference Between 12s and 18s Divisions

The College Choice

Should I Scout Opponents?

Starting College in January

Boys and Girls Practicing Together


Playing Better When Down

Dealing with Rain Delays

What Other Sports Help My Tennis?

Avoiding Burnout

Should I try Nadal's string?

Playing in Windy Conditions

That feature ran from 2007 to 2011; Andy left Solomon's to take a position with the USTA as a National Coach in Player Development in 2010. I saw him frequently at junior tournaments during the next seven years and he was always happy to answer my questions about tennis development and engage in conversations about the latest changes in formats or trends in coaching or anything else that might impact the sport in the United States. The reverence that every other USTA National Coach had for him was unmistakable, and although he may have had detractors, I never heard anyone say a negative word about him, personally or professionally.

I wrote this article for Tennis Recruiting Network in 2016, interviewing Andy about what he was looking for as he spent days watching American players at the Junior Orange Bowl 12s. To one of the questions I asked, "where do you see yourself in five years?" Andy answered:

That's a good question. I'm not one to be able to sit still. So I always envision myself working and my wife begs me never to stop working. She says I don't know what to do with myself. I'll be working, whether it's in a full time capacity or part time capacity, I'm not sure, but five years from now, I will be working. At this point in my career, I want to work with young kids.

He was right about still working, but he did not stay with young kids. An opportunity to work with his son Chris, as a co-head coach of the LSU men, arose, so he left the USTA in 2017 and  worked in that capacity for five seasons in Baton Rouge.

There will be tributes across all levels of tennis in the days to come; it's impossible to grasp the range of influence Andy had in the sport. In his 72 years, Andy's kindness, wisdom and passion were the foundations of a legacy that will live on through all the coaches and players he touched, but it's profoundly sad now to consider tennis without him.

For more on Brandi's legendary career at the University of Florida, see this tribute from the ITA.