Danielle McNamara, who served as the Yale women’s tennis head coach from 2006 to 2014, is returning to lead the program for the 2016–17 season, Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett announced last week.
The Bulldogs won four Ivy League championships and recorded a 124–49 overall record under McNamara before she stepped down in May 2014. That September she was named head coach at the University of Texas, where she resigned after one season in which her Longhorns went 10–11, and 6–3 in the Big 12.
At Yale, rapid turnover followed McNamara’s departure from the program; McNamara’s replacement for the 2014–15 season, Taka Bertrand, left at the end of her first year, and Bertrand’s former assistant, Matej Zlatkovic, held the role of interim head coach for just one season.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Jeremy Makins, the administrator in charge of Yale’s tennis programs, said the Yale athletic department decided to open up a national search for a potential new coach at the end of this past spring season.
“We conducted our search with the hope of finding a coach who serves as a leader, mentor and role model for our women’s tennis program all the while guiding them in the pursuit of championships,” Makins said. “We are confident that [McNamara] is the best person for the program … She was very successful during her tenure at Yale, and we are thrilled that she’s come back to our team.”
Yale’s three seasons under three different coaches coincided with a drop in the Ivy League standings. The Bulldogs began the 2013–14 season fresh off three straight Ivy titles and holding a conference-best No. 36 national ranking, but in successive seasons they proceeded to place second, fifth and last in the Ancient Eight standings. This past season, the Elis went 2–5 in conference play to tie for seventh with Harvard.
Current players on the team, none of whom have played two consecutive seasons at Yale under the same head coach, heard of the decision the same day the press release was sent out.
For some, McNamara’s return brings with it a touch of familiarity; during her previous years at Yale, she coached players in the class of 2017, and helped recruit several members of the class of 2018. In a Yale athletics press release, McNamara noted the same sentiment.
“I am so grateful to be able to work at such an amazing University and with the outstanding young women who represent Yale Women’s Tennis,” McNamara said in the press release. “Yale is truly home for me, and my family and I can’t wait to get started again.”
Women’s tennis player Elizabeth Zordani ’18 still had McNamara’s contact information from when McNamara recruited her in high school. She called McNamara upon hearing the coaching announcement, and had a “long conversation” about the past season and the things the team must do to move forward.
“Danielle has expressed that she has learned a lot from her time away from Yale and realized she misses Yale and she wants to come back,” Zordani said. “Because she’s the coach that recruited me, I’m pretty excited for her.”
It remains unclear if Zlatkovic will be kept on as an assistant coach. Makins said to the News he could not comment on filling the assistant coach position because it is considered a personnel matter, and Zordani said the email sent by Makins to the team did not mention any decisions made in regards to other coaching staff. As of Wednesday night, no one other than McNamara was listed as a coach on the women’s tennis section of the Yale athletics website.
After her one season at Texas, McNamara moved back to New Haven to start her own tennis clinic for young children, Little Rockets Tennis.