Southern California is the best of the best when it comes to tennis. This is a weighty, but very accurate statement. The players, programs and people who spend time, (in some cases their entire lives), building the game’s tradition in the section support the claim.
Steve Katz was a case in point. He, along with his wife, Maurica, whose name was always mentioned in the same breath, truly made a difference. They were the “definitive” tandem, spending over twenty years as organizers of the LA84 Foundation/NJTL Program at Poinsettia Park.
Steve Katz passed away in the middle of May. One of his former students, Danny Westerman, said, “He was an incredible and very humble coach. In the 1990s, he worked with some of the best juniors in Southern California including Andrew Park, Zach Fleischman, along with Muguette and Violet Ahn.
“He and Maurica helped so many local kids over the years. They never coached strictly for the money. They were so kind and generous with their time, and did so much for so many juniors in my neighborhood.”
Steve and Maurica Katz were Southern California Tennis Association Family of the Year in 1990. “I grew up in West Hollywood and they were my coaches from the time I was 12 until I was 18,” Westerman said. “For a while in the 1990s, they were also the Ball Boy Coordinators at the Loa Angeles Open ATP event that was played at UCLA.”
Westerman is now the men’s tennis coach at his alma mater the University of Wisconsin, after spending nine years in the same position at the University of Denver (and putting the men’s tennis program there on the map). He is quick to point out that the Katzs provided care and guidance to him and hundreds of other youngsters. They had such a strong affect that he was three-time All-Big Ten selection on the court, as well as a
three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree. In 2002, the year he was co-captain of the team, he won the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor.
Steve, who was married to Maurica for forty years, was community tennis to the core. He did it quietly, out of the spotlight. He wasn’t a celebrity coach. He had no desire to be one. He was an inspiration focusing solely on one thing – Helping Youngsters.
Appropriately, there will be a remembrance of Steve Katz’s life on Sunday, June 12th, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Poinsettia Park; 7341 Willoughby Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046.
Look for a fresh examination of tennis topics at “Mark’s Thoughts”