MEN’S TENNIS: Former Hurricanes tennis coach to lead Olympic team in Beijing

Former Miami men’s tennis coach Rodney Harmon will join his fellow countrymen and women on the greatest stage in sports this summer at the Olympics in Beijing, China. The former Big East Coach of the Year has been named the 2008 U.S. men’s tennis head coach.

“It was a big surprise, but a good surprise,” Harmon said. “It’s a lot of responsibility because you’re representing a country and get to work with great players.”

The decision came after Patrick McEnroe said that he would not return as head coach.

“I think he is a terrific choice to take over Patrick’s spot,” said Paul Roetert, USTA director of player development, who has known Harmon for 20 years. “I can’t think of anyone better to take over the position than Rodney Harmon.”

Harmon said that he and McEnroe will remain in close contact throughout the summer in preparation for the Olympics in August.

Harmon, who is currently the USTA director of men’s tennis, will have to pick up to six players to join him in his first trip to the Olympics.

“It’s a tremendous honor and something that I’ve already started to prepare for, and I’m looking forward to it,” Harmon said.

Harmon grew up in Virginia idolizing tennis greats Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors. He has been a Hurricane fan since he was young and said that the opportunity to coach at Miami from 1996-97 was one of the highlights of his career.

“The biggest thing that I learned at UM was the daily pursuit of excellence and the importance of team dynamics,” Harmon said.

While team selections are not supposed to be released until June 23, Harmon said that James Blake, who is No. 8 in the world in singles, Bob and Mike Bryan, who are No. 1 in the world in doubles, and Sam Querrey, No. 44 in the world in singles, would all be likely choices. Andy Roddick, who is No. 6 in the world, made the decision not to attend the Olympics last month.

“I think Andy went to the Olympics in 2004 in Athens and he’d like to make a big push to try to win the U.S. Open,” Harmon said. “He’s also engaged, so there might be a lot going on for him in August.”

Harmon said the first and most important goal for the summer was to make sure that all his players stay healthy.

“The biggest thing is organizing the guys and making sure that I take control of the situation,” he said. “Some of the players, no matter how they rank in the world, will be looking to me for leadership.”

Rory Lincoln may be contacted at