Stanford women’s tennis coach Lele Forood didn’t drop a single match in her inaugural season at the helm after taking over in 2001 after spending the previous 14 years as the associate head coach. In fact, she hasn’t experienced losing a whole lot in the 16 years that followed. And on Sunday afternoon, after the No. 5 Cardinal (12-1) blanked Hawaii 4-0 at Taube Family Tennis Stadium, the victory marked the 400th of her illustrious career. The accolades are vast, with a 400-38 record for a .913 winning percentage, eight NCAA titles, including last year, 12 conference crowns and five NCAA champions in each singles and doubles. Forood, 60, took time out of her schedule to answer a few questions from Daily News staff writer Vytas Mazeika about her historic feat and journey along the way.
Q: How does it to feel to reach this career milestone?
A: I have to say, I never kind of knew the numbers over the years. Obviously, this is Year 17 for (associate head coach) Frankie (Brennan) and I, since we took over the program, and I never kind of put it together. I never knew when 300 happened, I didn’t know when 200 happened, and I didn’t really know that we were on the verge of 400 until, of course, it was on the Stanford website. We had a lot of buildup, or time, coming up to this match because we were in final exams last week, so it was plenty of time to build up the fact that this was such a significant match. Fortunately for our team, they rose to the occasion.”
Congrats, Lele. 😎#GoStanford pic.twitter.com/0twhlEdfmJ
— StanfordWTennis (@StanfordWTennis) March 26, 2017
Q: What was the reaction on the court once it became official?
A: Our players were aware of it from the website, or wherever, so they were excited. We had a little celebration afterward with some people who were at the match and stayed to the end. So it was a fun day.
Q: Did the players douse you with a bucket of water like they do after winning NCAA championships?
A: Oh, no, no, no. Definitely not. It was very tame by those standards.
Q: What comes to mind when you look back at this amazing run?
A: We got off to such an incredible roll early on. I mean, our first season we were 30-0 back in 2001. We went through a period of ’04, ’05, ’06 where we didn’t lose a match. That kind of fuels the numbers. The playing field got a little bit more level after that. It was a little harder for anybody, quite frankly. I don’t know if anybody has gone undefeated since our season in ’06. (Nope.) The landscape has changed, it’s harder to do those kind of things these days. So we don’t look at number of wins in a season, we look at really our finish at the end. Did we win a conference title? And did we hopefully win an NCAA title that season?
Because when 4️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ wins talks, you listen. 😎#GoStanford #lele pic.twitter.com/C9L5JcGF6Z
— StanfordWTennis (@StanfordWTennis) March 27, 2017
Q: Does it sink in how many great players have come through Stanford in your time?
A: Not just great players because they went to play after college, but great players for what they did in collegiate tennis, too. Because a lot of people decided not to pursue professional tennis for too long after their collegiate days, because they wanted to get on with other parts of their life. And believe me, I heard from a lot on them on that day. I got a lot of texts and a lot of emails, because everyone knows — I’m a little old school — those are the mediums I would hear from and respond to.
Q: So it’s harder to get a hold of you through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?
A: Yes. I actually do have a Twitter account, not very active. And I’m not on the other ones.
Q: Last month, Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer got her 1,000th career victory. How often did you hear about that in comparison?
A: Her record is amazing. I still have the texts back and forth between us when she got her 1,000th win and I congratulated her, and she was very appreciative of that. I think we have a lot of mutual respect for each other. She got her start in coaching earlier than me, because I was a coach by 1988, but she preceded that. Just a lot of mutual respect for what it takes to win, what it takes to win consistently at the collegiate level, what it takes to win at Stanford, which is a whole other thing.
Q: How much longer do you plan to coach at Stanford and when do you expect to reach win No. 500?
A: (Laughter.) We’re going to have to amp up the wins per season, probably, for that to be a reality. Like any coach, I think you end the season and you kind of assess whether you’re ready to go again three months later. So given my age and everything else, I’m in kind of a one-year-at-a-time situation. But I enjoy what I’m doing, I’m enjoying my current team a lot and we’re rolling along this season with only one loss. We’re competitive and we can’t wait to see how it plays out down the road.
Q: Anything else to add?
A: The teams change, the times change, coaching stays more or less similar. Although you have to coach to the personality of your team every year, and that’s why it’s fun to keep doing it, because there’s nothing the same about one year to the next. Absolutely nothing.