SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School tennis coach Gary Wasserman’s girls team recently delivered him his 200th career victory (boys and girls combined), as he adds a new landmark to his coaching career.
“When I first started coaching, I didn’t know if it was going to be a short-term or long-term deal. It’s always been my dream,” Wasserman said Monday after his team’s match against Westfield. “Before I started coaching at Scotch Plains, I started the boys’ JV. program at Westfield, and when I didn’t get the job there, I wanted it more than ever."
Wasserman got that opportunity in 2008, when Scotch Plains’ Athletic Director at the time, Rob Harmer, appointed him as boys’ varsity head coach. The next fall, when there was a vacancy at the girls’ varsity position, he again was the choice.
“I think [the program] has come around tremendously. When I first started, we weren’t so good,” Wasserman said.
The coach built his program up over time, and reached an apex in 2015, when his boys’ team finished second in Union County.
“Scotch Plains always has good tennis players on the verge of becoming great tennis players. So if they can take away some of the knowledge that I’ve given them, it would be my satisfaction,” Coach “Wass” said.
Two players that Wasserman mentored have gone on to play Division I tennis: Jeffrey Rodgers is currently at Fairfield, and Ryan Krueger played at Lehigh.
“They were fantastic, thinking back on the good memories from Jeffrey and Ryan really comes to mind,” Wasserman said.
One of the qualities that makes Wasserman so highly-regarded is his selflessness.
“It’s never been about me – it’s been about the kids. The kids do it for me, believe in the program, strive and believe in how I teach them,” he said.
Despite a rebuilding year from Wasserman’s girls’ squad (6-11), there are positive vibes around the program, and according to second-singles player Sophia Di Iorio, the coach is a huge reason why.
"Honestly, he’s the best coach we can have. He’s so supportive and always talking to us during the match and giving us pointers. … He’s a great mentor. He’s always there for us, even on non-practice days if we just wanted to hit, he’s just there for us,” Sophia Di Iorio.
“Most of our team started out as freshmen. There were five of us, and I’ve seen the way we’ve grown with our skills and with our personalities. He’s definitely had an impact on that,” the senior said.
Even though Wasserman’s girls’ season ended Monday with a 3-2 loss to Westfield, he gears up for this spring’s boys’ season, which starts in mid-March.
Junior Brandon Glickstein, co-MVP of last year’s boys’ team, said: “[He] responds well with the players and always makes it about the team, not himself.”