Robb Salant coached boys tennis at Catalina Foothills for 20 years and led the Falcons to eight state titles, including seven since 2005, but left a void when he retired after last season.
The timing couldn't have been better for recent Tucson transplant David King.
Replacing the only coach the program has even known wasn't going to be easy, but the Falcons may have landed the right man for the job in King, a well-traveled English teacher, who moved from Madrid, Spain, to Tucson after his wife, Judy, was transferred here by the Air Force.
The 42-year-old Alabama native, in his seventh year of coaching at the high school level, has Foothills undefeated. But King and the Falcons will have their toughest test of the year so far when they face Salpointe Catholic today at Tucson Racquet & Fitness Club.
The Star recently sat down with King to find out more about him and his team:
Q: How does it feel replacing legendary, long-time coach Robb Salant?
A: "Everywhere I've been, I've been associated with programs that have done really well. Certainly not as successful as this program has historically been, but I know what winning looks like, and Robb is not far away so if I have questions I can ask him. We've talked a few times. He's really sensitive about not trying to get in the way, but he's really supportive of the team, even coming out to our first match."
Q: What is it like inheriting the program you did?
A: "I inherited an excellent young program. There's a lot of talent, and the majority are just sophomores and only one senior. Where I can, I play my guys up. We're only going to get better as these guys get older and develop their skills and mental game. So much of that happens between the ages of 16 and 18."
Q: How can Foothills remain as one of the top programs in the state?
A: "A lot of it we've kept the same. It's my job to not get in the way and just try to maintain the tradition of success they've had here. Keeping a large team is something Robb did that I feel was important as well. With 22 players we have a lot of depth."
Q: What are your thoughts on facing Salpointe today?
A: It's definitely going to be a big test. They're a great team. We're certainly not taking anyone for granted and we're going to be well-prepared. We're both deep No. 1 through 6, so it should be an exciting match."