Yeah, we probably have the finest facilities here now. We became the mecca of college tennis. They put the Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame here because we were putting on the NCAA championships. We drew the biggest crowds. They put the Hall of Fame here, and I was trying to raise money for the Hall of Fame building. That was back in 1983. That was about the time Kenny Rogers married the beautiful Mary Ann Gordon of Athens. He had met her on the Hee Haw TV show. She was one of the pretty girls, never did say anything, just looked pretty. She…you remember Nurse Goodbody on that show? She wasn't Nurse Goodbody, but she could have been. They moved to Athens. She had helped me in her high school days. She had helped me because her grandmother was the bookkeeper in the athletic department, Ma Gordon. She was the bookkeeper and she'd come down there to visit her grandmother, and her grandmother called me and said "Mary Ann's getting in the way, I can't balance the books. Put her to work." I paid her 50 cents an hour helping in my office, folding envelopes, before they had folding machines, licking stamps before we had a stamp machine. Turned out to be the best investment I ever made. When she and Kenny were married, he built that palace out there near Colbert, Georgia, and he had taken up tennis. She brought him down here and wanted to know if he could play tennis. I said, "Sure." Then shortly thereafter, he said he wanted to make a financial donation to the tennis program. I said, "We're trying to get money for the Hall of Fame." Well, he ended up paying the whole amount, $200,000. He was a natural athlete. He never finished high school, never went to college, and took part in sports, but he was a natural athlete and a great singer and made a lot of money out of it. We benefited by it. Originally, I put a bronze plaque in front of the building that said, "Thank you, Kenny Rogers, for your generosity to college tennis." He said "Take that sign down." I said, "You're the boss." I took it down. He said, "Put another one up there and say "Thank you Mary Ann and Kenny Rogers." That's the sign we have up there now, a bronze plaque. Then Kim Basinger, another real pretty Athens girl, helped us out a lot. When she was a girl, a real pretty young girl, she used to come down and watch her daddy, Don, and brother, Mick, play in our tournaments. I put her to work at my drink stand. When she was behind the counter, we sold more Coca-Colas than we ever had. She made more money on tips than I did the whole year. I never saw one man that didn't give her a dollar or five dollar bill and say, "Keep the change, honey." Never saw one woman tip her, though. They were jealous. She left Athens at a young age and went to New York to model…from there to Hollywood. I didn't see her for about 15 years, but I kept up with her, reading about her all the time, seeing some of the movies. In the summer of 1990, we were having the Crackerland Tennis Tournament, and her brother Mick's little boys were playing in the Crackerland tournament. They were good young athletes. One of them later was on the Georgia track team. She came up to me, she had on a bandana and dark glasses. I didn't recognize her. She said "Coach Magill, there sure have been a lot of changes around the tennis court since I used to sell your Coca-Colas." Then I recognized her. "Oh Kim, boy it's good to see you." The next day her brother said "Kim wants to make a donation to the tennis program." He said "What do you need?"I said, "Well, the NCAA wants us to get lights here, so that we can wait around if it rains and play at night, play outdoors. This is supposed to be the outdoor championships." He said, "What will it cost?"I said, "I swear I don't know – between 80 and 100 thousand dollars, I guess." The next day, Kim gave me a check for $90 thousand dollars and she was here for the dedication ceremonies, and did a wonderful job.
You won 706 tennis matches. 706 to 183 was your record?
They were matches here. That was the record at that time. All records are meant to be broken. I coached 34 years. Dick Gould, the great Stanford coach, coached 38 years, and he holds that record now, and I'm going to be out in Palo Alto. I've never been to Palo Alto in the daytime. I was there one night with Ty Cobb. Dick Gould has asked me to come out there. He's putting it on, and he'll do a great job, but I have to be there for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. I'm still the curator and chairman of the Hall of Fame committee.
You won 13 SEC championships, 8 indoor and 2 national championships, is that right?
That's all right. Our greatest player was a little Swede named Michael Pernfors. I almost didn't give him a scholarship. He wasn't but 5 foot 7 and a half, but his coach down there at the junior college, Sanford Junior College, below Miami. There's a Samford University in Birmingham. This is Sanford College below Miami. He wasn't a good player as a junior in Sweden, but he was good enough. They didn't even give him a scholarship to Sanford Junior College, but he went there and he played number two on the team. They had another Swede named Svenson, who played one. And he was undefeated at number two. Then he was undefeated at number one, and his coach, who I'd known, called me and wanted me to give him a scholarship. But by that time, we had choices of whoever we wanted to get really. We had become a power. I wasn't going to give him a scholarship, but I had a call one day from one of my former players, named Paul Groth, a left-hander from Decatur, Georgia. He had played German team tennis, and he had also recommended Boris Becker to me. I got a letter from Boris Becker saying "Dear Herr Magill, thank you for the scholarship offer, but I've just been selected to the German Davis Cup team and I won't…." This was the same time I could have had Becker and Pernfors, but he turned pro. Paul Groth called me up and he said, "I understand you're interested in this little Swede, Michael Pernfors." I said, "Yeah, have you ever seen him play?"He said, "Yeah, he just beat me in the finals of professional tournament down here. I played as a pro, he played as an amateur." I said, "Well, he'd be good enough to make our team. I may be interested in him." He said, "You better give him a scholarship. He'll be the best damn player you ever had." And he was. I gave him a scholarship, and at that time, you couldn't work out. I don't know whether you can to this day. You couldn't work out a player if you're visiting. So on his visit to Athens he couldn't work out. I didn't know what kind of player he was, never seen him play till September of his first year. He only played two years. He was a junior college graduate. September of his first year, that was the fall of 1983. We had boot camp two weeks before school. I was working them out twice a day. His first workout, my assistant coach was Manuel Diaz, who did a great job as a head coach, and Pernfors could hit the ball off balance better than anybody I'd ever seen. He was just very agile — very strong from the waist up. I said, "That little Swede…he's going to more than make our team. He's going to be our number one player." The next day, Pernfors was really trying to show me how good he was. He just pulled out all the stops. He was hitting the ball a mile a minute, and I turned to Manuel, I said "That boy is good enough to win the NCAA tournament. He's caught on to my coaching faster than anybody I've every had." (Laughter)And he did win the NCAA two straight years. And he's been a great friend. He is now…He had tough luck. His high school sweetheart died in an automobile accident in Sweden, but he married late in life, a Swedish girl named Hansen, and they had a little boy a couple years ago. He had an unusual name, it's a Swedish name, called Figge, Figge — they've got a little boy now.
What other players from your team…
Oh, we've had a lot of great players.
You mentioned Danny Birchmore.
Danny Birchmore was a wonderful player, and Norman Holmes was a wonderful player. He was from Florida. And Manuel, Coach Diaz, was a wonderful player. Oh, quite a few.
Talk about Becky Birchmore, Coach.
Now Becky was a good player too. I taught Becky how to play. I tried to get a women's athletic program started in Georgia when we had the Wickliff twins in Athens. They used to play on our courts in the early ‘50s, but the women in charge of women's intramural athletics, they didn't want an athletic program. They didn't need Title IX. All they had to do was just have the women in charge of women. They could have had the women's program. Then I tried to get them to have a women's program when Barbara Dupree, Sterling Dupree's beautiful daughter, she became state women's champion. They still didn't want a women's athletic program. So Barbara Dupree had to settle for being Phi Beta Kappa and campus beauty queen, and having a beautiful daughter, who was on “Entertainment Tonight,”Julie Moran. She was Julie Brown originally because Barbara married a baseball player at Georgia named Brown from Thomasville. She became selected one of 50 most beautiful women on television, or in the world, Julie Moran. But anyway, and then we had Becky Birchmore. Becky was a talented girl player. Danny was talented. Becky was talented. Of course, Fred was even more talented, their father, Fred, who rode his bicycle around the world, you know. He was an accomplished boxing champion. I could talk forever on Fred. But Becky, about the time she was in college, in the mid ‘60s, the Southeastern Conference said women can take part in college athletics if they can make the men's team. Some of them made it in swimming as a diver, and some of them made it in tennis. Becky earned her letter in tennis at Georgia. She couldn't make our men's team. I played her as a substitute, though. Fred helped me at the courts. I didn't have any help except me and Fred. He'd drag and roller because he loved to work. Loved physical exercise. He could work all day. Becky played on our team, and I played her as a substitute, and she never lost a match. She won in singles and doubles. It's the only girl ever made a letter on a men's athletic team at Georgia to this day. When she was awarded, given an award at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, given to people…former tennis players who have made lifetime achievements, great, she was head of the dermatology department at Harvard. She got some kind of an award, several thousand dollars that she was supposed to give to her college for their women's tennis program. But Becky stipulated that it not be for women, that it go for the men's program, and that's a true story.
You've seen some great athletes over the years, and not just in tennis, but if you were…what would be
Well, Clegg Starks was one of the greatest, the old water boy at Georgia. He could throw a football a hundred yards, and he threw a baseball the fastest. He was one of the greatest, and it's too bad they had not…too bad that it was a long time later before they broke the color barrier. Jackie Robinson, who was a great athlete at UCLA, but he was born in Cairo, Georgia, Jackie Robinson was. But, of course at Georgia, we've had so many great ones, Bob McWhorter. I didn't see him play, though, except softball. Herschel Walker, was a great one, and Francis Tarkenton. We've had some great quarterbacks. I think Francis Tarkenton, Athens boy named for the great Methodist bishop, Francis Asbury. Francis Tarkengton's daddy was a Methodist preacher. Tarkenton grew up at the Athens Y. He's a product of the Athens Y too. He used to play ball games out on Sanford Stadium before the regular game. The kids would play with each other out there. Then he led Athens High to the State High School Championship, beat Valdosta on Sanford Field one time. Then he led us to the conference championship. In pro ball, he was even greater. He led the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls, and his coach at Minnesota, Bud Grant, said Tarkenton was the greatest quarterback ever to play in the NFL. He is in the National Professional Football Hall of Fame. He is in the National Collegiate Hall of Fame. When we had our coronation party for the ‘59 championship team, Harold M. Walker, our beloved poet laureate, ended a great toast to him." Here's to Athens' favorite son, the fearless pilot, Tarkenton." (laughter)
Well, of course two of Georgia's greatest presences in athletics were Joel Eaves. I had seen him play high school sports. He used to play for Old Tech High, and I'd seen him when he played for Auburn. He was a three-sport star in football, baseball, and basketball. He loved basketball. We dedicated the Stegeman Coliseum on George Washington's birthday in 1964. He wanted the biggest crowd he could get. We ain't going to turn away anybody. I promoted it, and we didn't turn anybody away. We sold all the tickets. We let everybody in. They sat in all the aisles. They sat out on the court. Their feet were on the boundary line. We had 15,000 fans there for the game, and we won the game over Tech. But, Coach Eaves got cussed out afterward because the fire marshal said "You broke all the fire marshal's rules." Never again has there been that crowd. They wouldn't let them sit in the aisles. They wouldn't let them sit on the court, but that was a great thrill and Coach Eaves loved basketball. In fact, the basketball gym at Auburn is named for him. And Coach Dooley, certainly was a great football coach at Georgia. His teams didn't make many mistakes, and I think that was really due to his training in the Marine Corps two years. They teach you not to make any mistakes. And his teams…if you don't make any mistakes, you can stay in the ball game if you don't get any penalties. He had great control. His teams controlled the ball. They didn't make many mistakes. Well-disciplined teams. His teams made a lot of money and it enabled them to put that money into other sports. Football is the king sport. It pays for practically all the other sports, you know, and Coach Dooley's winning teams helped put Georgia's other teams on the map, giving them the…and it helped us have great facilities.
Well, anything you'd like to tell us? Any words of wisdom. A remarkable life and a remarkable memory…