Less than two weeks after the resignations of a pair of head coaches, the Florida Gators announced on Friday that new leaders have been hired for the women’s golf and men’s tennis programs. Florida promoted assistant Emily Bastel to head up the women’s golf team and brought in Georgia Tech head women’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton to take over the men’s tennis squad.
Though both will be new to UF, Bastel and Shelton have drastically different levels of experience and success in the coaching profession.
Former Gators head women’s golf coach Jan Dowling surprised Florida administrators last month by resigning for personal reasons. Luckily for athletic director Jeremy Foley and senior associate director Mike Spiegler, the top candidate to be her replacement was a young up-and-comer positioned right under their noses.
Bastel was hired 10 months ago to be Dowling’s assistant and immediately submitted her resume when learning of her boss’ departure.
“I was just blown away,” Foley said remembering how he felt after interviewing Bastel for the position. “We had a diamond in our midst and didn’t even know it.”
Spiegler added: “When she left the room, we all sort of looked at each other and said, you know, ‘Wow.’ It was that impressive. She may be on the quiet side, but she’s confident and has an idea about the direction we’re headed and will continue to go.”
Also working to her benefit was the fact that “every member of the UF team called, texted or e-mailed to lobby on Bastel’s behalf,” according to GatorZone.com.
Before joining Florida last season, she served as an assistant at Michigan State (2002-03) and Duke (2009-10). Bastel replaced Dowling (who left for UF in 2009) as an assistant at Duke after spending three years on the LPGA Tour (2005-08).
Shelton’s path to the Gators came through Florida head women’s tennis coach Roland Thornqvist who, according to the Gators, submitted a “short list of candidates” to Foley but pushed heavily for Shelton to get a shot.
“He’s the best in the country – on the men’s or women’s side,” he reportedly said.
Unlike Bastel, Shelton has plenty of head coaching experience and immense success. He has spent the last 13 years at Georgia Tech coaching the women’s team and even lead them to the university’s first and only NCAA Championship in 2007.
He began his career playing for GT, won ACC singles and doubles titles while a part of the team and is even a member of the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame. Shelton then turned pro and played on the circuit for seven years before going into coaching.
Under Shelton’s tutelage, GT won a national title, two ITA National Indoor Team Championships, four-straight ACC regular season titles and four ACC Tournaments. He also coached two ACC Players of the Year, an NCAA Singles Champion and two ITA National Players of the Year. Shelton was named USTA/ITA National Coach of the Year in 2007 and ACC Coach of the Year four times (2002, 2005, 2007-08).
Foley is confident Shelton’s impressive coaching career will translate to the men’s game and thinks he is the man to lead the Gators back to the promised land.
“I don’t tell coaches how many games or championships they have to win, but men’s tennis needs to be in the hunt every single year,” said Foley, according to GatorZone.com. “Does that mean the Final Four every year? No. But when the season starts, you need to be one of the teams that has a chance to get there.”
Now Shelton is a member of the orange and blue and the man charged with rekindling the success UF once had at the start of now former coach Andy Jackson‘s tenure.
“I think that Florida and Florida tennis speaks for itself,” he said. “In my mind, this is the best job in the country. […] I’m talking about resources. I’m talking about academics. I’m talking about the opportunity to grow and develop a program to the highest level; the opportunity to win championships and be successful year in and year out.
“This place is a gold mine.”
Photo Credits: Duke University/Georgia Tech University