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The Wednesday Coaches Corner: Morris King, Jr. , Part I

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Black Tennis Pros Wednesday Coaches Corner
Author Prelude

Today is the first segment of the Wednesday Coaches Corner. I am very excited about it. Loving what we see transpire on the courts is inevitably a direct correlation to the coaches that train, mentor and advise the players.

Even so, it was never my intention to delve into the lives and activities of the coaches, primarily because that is not an experience that I am familiar with. However, my first profile, Morris King, Jr., contacted me a short while ago and questioned my not covering the Black coaches who are indeed Black tennis professionals themselves. It took me a minute to come around, but he eventually made his point.

Since Morris is the impetus for this new feature, it is only proper that he would be the first coach profiled. His interview will take place over two installments. I don't know that this will be the standard framework for these interviews, but Morris brings a lot to the table and I want to share as much of him as is reasonably possible.

On Thursday, May 8, 2008, I began interviewing a world class private tennis coach. Within five minutes we were laughing as if we had known one another for years. By Friday, May 9, I was interviewing a friend, the point at which this interview took on a life of its own.

This man with with the deep voice, personality to spare, depth of thought to share and an honest streak that could cause fear, was very open, and allowed me the freedom to probe his life as much as I chose. He responded elaborately in some areas and minutely in others.

Whatever the result of my inquiry, I could not have spent better days engulfed in some of the most intriguing, entertaining one-on-one conversation that I have enjoyed in a long time.

I was speaking with someone who's life's pursuits have taken him from substitute teaching, to banking, to even running for a seat on the city council. By no means is Morris King, Jr. going to be bored with the story that his life tells when it is all said and done.

For those of you who do not know this Jacksonville, Florida native, it is my intention to simply introduce you to him and peak your interest in him as a coach. The second half of this interview will take you deep inside the coaching world of Morris King, Jr.

Morris King Jr.’s Opening Statement

“White players hire White coaches, Hispanic players hire Hispanic coaches, Japanese players hire Japanese coaches, Chinese players, hire Chinese coaches; Black players hire White coaches (except where the coach is the parent, of course).

But also, Black players that don’t have money allow the USTA (the United States Tennis Association, the national governing body of tennis) to come in, finance them and ruin their chance of becoming a champion as a result of the USTA’s pitiful coaching.

However, the bright side of the story is that, at least, the Black player is now able to travel all over the world at the USTA’s expense, and NEVER be properly coached to win a championship or to become one of the top players in the world.“

I was completely floored when Morris concluded his statement. It was very frank, and it immediately allowed me to look behind the curtain of Morris’ perspective on a number of issues.

I honestly did not know where to direct my interview due to the severity of this statement. I wanted to further consider and make inquiry of his very strong words. I wondererd to myself "what is the validity of this statement? what is it's purpose? do I want to print it?"

Eyebrows raised in contemplation, I was literally locked in thought, but we moved on.

Morris is a smart man, an educated man committed to excellence, community and tomorrow. It is readily evident in his conversation and the body of actions over his lifetime. His dedication to the growth and prosperity of the youth that he comes into contact with is heartwarming.

He has that ability to consistently massage and apply his knowledge into a conversation in a comparative and analytical sense. I admire people who can do that. It's a strong factor of foundation and belief in one's self.

After learning of these aspects of Morris King, Jr. the world class tennis coach, I became even more enthralled with the man that aspired to this point. What was, and is this man seeking, and in that quest, how did becoming a private tennis coach present itself?

Here are a few critical points of growth in Morris’ life:

  • achieved a bachelor’s degree in Public/Business Administration from the University of Florida, after having completed the first two years of college at the Ivy League Columbia University in New York City on academic scholarship;
  • formerly a city official in Jacksonville, Florida;
  • formerly a financial analyst at a former leading Florida bank;
  • formerly a personal/professional manager of entertainers, models and athletes as a private businessman;
  • formerly involved in international affairs consulting with third world countries;
  • has been a board member of a renowned civil/human rights advocacy organization; and
  • is a paralegal, among other accomplishments and affiliations.
I found each of these events interesting as I listened for what exactly caused his evolution into a tennis coach. Whenever I would ask for a direct statement to that effect, Morris would always say “I didn’t pick tennis, tennis picked me.” I definitely understand such a path. Sometimes each of our paths in life evolves differently from how we originally envision it.

Morris eventually shared with me that he began playing tennis at 14 years of age, and that his game was self-taught from reading books and watching television. "Learning to play like this enabled me to later sharpen my analytical ability to fix problems inside of the game of others. I became a stickler for 'technical purity.'

Of course the most significant point of Morris’ evolution as a tennis coach occurred when he was approached by Richard Williams to inject his brand and philosophy of tennis into the development of the now superstar sisters, Venus and Serena.

Today Morris operates Magian World Class Tennis, among other business endeavors. Magian World Class Tennis specializes in highly competitive individualized training utilizing the patented and unstoppable “Magian Style.”

Before this segment is over and you begin waiting for next week's installment of my interview with Morris , I concluded this portion of the interview with him as I do with anyone else that I interview - Fun Facts! I like to know what makes people tick personally, what cracks them up, what music they groove to, etc.

When Morris and I began to talk about those things that relax or bring him pleasure, it was uncanny how much we had in common. At the pinnacle of that commonality is his love of my favorite style of music, jazz. I truly enjoyed hearing him share the artists that he listens to, that his father enjoyed, the problem with a lot of current day jazz artists, etc. Yet another elongated conversation.

Next in line, the brotha is a trekkie. How satisfying was that for me? Very. He could do no wrong in my eyes after I found that out. I was now in deep interest. I don’t meet many trekkies, so when I do, I take note. Of course we had to discuss which Star Trek we considered the best, what it was that Benjamin Sisqo (Avery Brooks) brought to the franchise as the first and only Black captain, and of course how James Tiberious Kirk will always be THE captain of the franchise.

While we didn’t seem to enjoy any of the same authors to date, he too is a voracious reader. Morris is currently reading Confessions of an Economic Hitman, The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, and Dope, Inc.: The Book That Drove Henry Kissinger Crazy.

His all-time favorite books? The Autobiography of Malcolm-X, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and Behold a Pale Horse.

I then asked Morris if he had any favorite vacation spots, his response, “What is a vacation? Explain that to me.” Okay, guess not.

"Well, foods, tell me what type of foods are your favorite, and don’t say chicken." Morris took a few moments to set up his disdain and outrage at my disparagement of what he so lovingly calls, “the negro national bird.” He then began to very humorously, basically preach and praise the hallowed and mighty fowl. I laughed with my mouth wide open. Morris has consistently caused me to give up my cool all throughout this interview. I did not like it initially, those of you who know me know that I’m a control FREAK! However, I have had such a good time getting to know him that after time passed, I just did not care anymore.

He finally admitted that he loves seafood.

Morris has a funky list of beverages that he loves, with Pepsi (the “elixir of life") heading the list. Closely followed by Mountain Dew and Earl Grey Tea (and why not, it is Picard’s favorite brew).

Lastly, I asked him about marriage and relationships, the short and long answer is the same, "I am a single heterosexual male - looking."

In part II of this interview, while I will primarily explore Morris' life as a tennis coach, I will continue to share aspects of him that I find interesting, uncommon, endearing and even perplexing.

There is much more to Morris King, Jr. Meet me back here on May 21 to find out what that is.

Posted by Shelia

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