Dick Leach, the legendary men’s tennis coach for the University of Southern California, passed away October 10, 2023. Leach led the Trojans to NCAA team titles in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 2002 and is the father of ATP doubles standout Rick Leach, the former word No. 1 doubles player and winner of the Australian, U.S. and Wimbledon men’s doubles titles.
The following provides more background on Leach as he first became the USC coach in 1980, taking over for another college tennis coaching legend George Toley, as written by Mark Young in the book “Trojan Tennis: A History of the Storied Men’s Tennis Program at the University of Southern California” here https://a.co/d/bvtmV50
Dick Leach started playing tennis when he was ten years old at Arcadia County Park, in Arcadia, California. Wynn Rogers, Leach’s physical education teacher, and a member of the U.S. International Badminton team—and a very good tennis player—enrolled him in his first tennis class. Every weekend, all the local high school players from cities like Whittier, San Gabriel, Pasadena, Monrovia, Glendora, Temple City played at Arcadia Park. Darlene Hard and Billie Jean King also played at the park regularly, as did Pasadenan Stan Smith. The park was a breeding ground for great players as evidenced by Hard, King and Smith all achieving No. 1 rankings worldwide and, collectively, amassing 64 major singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles.
Fascinated with the game, Leach would ride his bike to the park and spend every weekend playing tennis. He was fanatical, playing a minimum of ten sets a day. By his mid-teens, he was ranked No. 3 in the National USTA 15-and-under singles. Leach was also very good at basketball and made first-team All-Pacific League when he was 17. From 1954 to 1957, Leach coached tennis at Arcadia (Calif.) High, amassing a 93-19 record. In 1958, he enrolled at USC and received a partial scholarship for tennis and also got a job on campus during the summers. Leach lived with his grandmother at 1020 West 36th Street. Later, George Lucas and Leach’s cousin, John Plummer, lived in the same home after the pair transferred to USC from Modesto Junior College. The home was torn down years ago and it is now the site of USC’s Life Sciences Building, which coincidentally is located just across the street from David Marks Tennis Stadium. Leach played tennis under George Toley at USC from 1959 to 1961, was captain of the team his senior year and achieved All-American third team honors in 1961.
From 1966-1968, Leach coached the USTA Junior Davis Cup team for boys 21-and-under and also played on the U.S. men’s circuit, achieving a high ranking of No. 16 in singles, and No. 5 in doubles. In 1967, he scored an impressive win at the Newport, Rhode Island tournament over Britain’s No. 1 ranked player Mark Cox. Later, he teamed with Robert Potthast from the University of Iowa for a dramatic win over Stan Smith and Bob Lutz at the Southern California Men’s Sectionals at the LATC in 1964. Leach won an astonishing 15 United States Tennis Association National Father and Son doubles titles—ten with his eldest son Rick, and five with son Jon. From 1969 to 1976 and, since 1971, he was the head pro at the San Marino Tennis Club and has been the general partner and owner of four tennis clubs: Big Bear Tennis Ranch, Westlake Tennis and Swim Club, Ojai Valley Racquet Club and the Racquet Club of Irvine.
“Right from the start, my goal, which later became somewhat of an obsession, was to win an NCAA team championship for USC, so I wanted to improve the way that everyone played,” said Leach. “The first thing I did was to conduct an interview with each of the players on scholarship. I would ask them to discuss their weaknesses and the conditions under which their strokes broke down. I would then prescribe a course of action with a timetable to overcome these shortcomings. Most of the players were coachable, but over the years, there were a few who resisted my coaching.”