Well, that certainly didn’t take long.
Just a short six months after being named the head men’s tennis coach of one of the most storied programs in all of college tennis, Brett Masi and the USC Trojans raised the ITA National Indoors Championship trophy to the roof of the Nielsen Tennis Stadium at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Masi and the Trojans: National Champions. Has a nice ring to it, indeed.
All the No. 1 team in the nation USC did was reel off wins against TCU, Stanford, Michigan and North Carolina. Of course some of the credit must go to former USC head man Peter Smith, who recruited each of the six players on the court on Monday, including local SoCal players Brandon Holt (No. 1), Smith’s son Riley (No. 3) and Stefan Dostanic (No. 5).
Masi’s mentor Smith over the summer announced his resignation from USC to pursue opportunities outside of college coaching. In his 17 seasons as Troy’s head coach, Smith led the Trojans to five NCAA titles, including his first in 2009 when Masi served as his assistant.
Masi spent five seasons (2005-2009) as Smith’s assistant at USC, the first as a volunteer. The Trojans advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2007 and 2008 before winning the 2009 NCAA crown. He was named the 2007 and 2008 ITA West Region Assistant Coach of the Year. He then went on to coach at the University of San Diego and Texas Tech.
Masi also spent time working at the Peter Smith Tennis Academy (2004-09), Martin Luther King High in Riverside, Calif. (2001-02), Cal Poly (2000-01) and IMG Academy-Los Angeles (2000).
You can’t say Masi didn’t pay his dues along the way.
“This is a great place to be for sure,” said Masi when we caught up with him at the USC Pro Futures event the first week of 2020. “I grew up a UC rat as my dad John Masi was the men’s basketball coach at UC Riverside for over 30 years. But because of that, I grew up a Bruins fan.”
Masi settled in comfortably and enjoyed a successful fall season which saw the Trojans grab the No. 1 ranking. “The first semester was great and we have a really strong team,” Masi said. “I think we have a lot of goals and high aspirations to do well this year. The transition has been great. It’s been fun and easy and everyone gets along because we have a great group of guys.
“I think the guys have high goals and think they can win it all, which is what the goal is here every year at USC. But I really feel like these guys think that’s within their grasp and is attainable with the talent and the depth that we have.”
Masi welcomes the pressure being the head coach brings. “Taking over at USC is the pressure that I wanted,” he said. “You wouldn’t take this job if you didn’t want the pressure. Just knowing what this job entails as an assistant coach a few years ago just gives me a head start that some others might not have coming into a new program. That’s why I felt somewhat comfortable taking this job. I’ve done it before. I’ve won a national title her before so you come in here with some clarity and what it takes to get better. Excited about this dual-match season. It’s going to be a fun ride.
Coming back to the Pac-12 means Masi will get to return to his favorite tournament: The Ojai.
“I remember playing the 14 and unders and we played at a private house and drank the orange juice and stayed on Saturday and Sunday to watch all the Pac-12 matches,” said Masi, who lost to the Bryan Bros. in the quarterfinals in 1995 and made it all the way to Libbey Park in 1996 losing to the twins in the final.
“Getting to play Bob and Mike on the second court while UCLA and Stanford were playing next to us was amazing,” Masi said. “Everyone was watching us over them. It’s just an unreal feeling and you can’t really describe it unless you go there and watch it.”
Local tennis fans will have a chance to see USC in action when the Trojans return home to Marks Stadium for a doubleheader this Saturday (Feb. 22). The Trojans will face Air Force at 10 a.m. and Army at 2 p.m. that day.