JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 14, 2003) - Yaser Zaatini
has been named the head coach of East Tennessee State's men's tennis program on an interim basis. Zaatini will replace long-time head coach Dave Mullins
, who has recently been named the school's interim director of athletics.
"I certainly wasn't expecting this to happen this soon," said Zaatini, who was originally hired as Mullins' assistant coach last fall. "It's an amazing feeling to come back to where you played and are given the opportunity to give something back."
Zaatini, 31, is a 1993 graduate of East Tennessee State, where he enjoyed an extraordinary four-year playing career and became one of the school's most decorated student-athletes.
"It is going to be a challenge, because the standards have been set so high," Zaatini said of his new duties as head coach. "(Mullins) has left me with a championship team that carries a 3.93 (out of 4.0) grade point average and has most of its players coming back."
Zaatini inherits a team that won the Southern Conference tournament last season and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second time in the last four years. The Buccaneers have won five Southern Conference championships during Mullins' sixteen years as head coach and have consistantly been ranked in the region.
"Yaser has done a great job of stepping into this postion, and I see nothing but success for him as he picks up the ball and runs with it," Mullins said. "Yaser is well aware of the tradition we have at ETSU, and he was one of the major ingrediants to the success of the men's tennis program. I've had the opportunity this past fall to work closey with him and hiring Yaser as the head coach was the next logical step."
As a player, Zaatini was the first individual from ETSU to compete in the NCAA Championships and is the only four-time Southern Conference tennis champion in No. 1 singles. In 1992, he was ranked as high as four in the nation in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings, the highest ever for a Buccaneer tennis player. Zaatini is also a two-time All-American (1992, 1993), the only All-American in ETSU tennis history.
After graduation Zaatini became a member of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). He made appearances in the 1994 and 1995 Davis Cup tournaments, representing his home country of Venezuela. He is the founder of the Zaatini Tennis Academy in his hometown of Maracay where he has taught nationally and internationally ranked juniors and professionals alike.
"I'm looking forward to this opportunity," Zaatini added. "We should have a very tough team this season, and I'm certain we will be successful in many ways."
The Buccaneers open their 2003 schedule at an indoor tournament hosted by Virginia Commonwealth on Jan. 24-25. Their first home contest is scheduled for Feb. 22 versus Alabama-Birmingham.