Daniel Hamilton Magill Jr., legendary University of Georgia tennis coach and sports historian, passed away Saturday at the age of 93.
With a celebration of his life set for noon Thursday at Athens Country Club, two of Magill’s close friends, Jack Bauerle and Allen Miller, shared personal memories this week of the man many call “the greatest Bulldog ever.”
Five days before Jack Bauerle left to coach at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Dan Magill called his longtime playing partner to confirm a doubles match.
“At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate what was taking place,” said Bauerle, UGA’s swim coach since 1979. “I wish I had savored it more. That was the last time Dan ever played a competitive set.”
From 1979-2012, hundreds of battles took place on Court 1 between the Hall of Fame coaches. For Magill and Bauerle, it was always Court 1.
“The stories from that court ... that’s what I’ll remember most,” Bauerle said. “Well, those and his letters.”
A few minutes pass before Bauerle walks out of his bedroom closet clinching a framed note co-written by Magill and wife, Rosemary.
Over the years, Magill typed Bauerle more than 40 personal letters, but the Hall of Fame swim coach only framed two: July 14, 1997 and Oct. 3, 2004.
“Look at this,” Bauerle said of the co-written note. “This is just great.”
Oct. 3, 2004
That was a great article by Huckaby in last week’s paper about you being the greatest coach in UGA history. Dan gave it to me and said, “Jack once said I was the greatest coach ever.”
I told Dan that was nice and asked him, ‘Who do you consider the best coach?’
“Well,” said Dan. “I tend to agree with Jack.”
“How good is that?” Bauerle asked. “There’s only one note I cherish more.”
On July 14, 1997, you bestowed on me my greatest honor ever by naming your son, Magill.
In the meantime, I’ll try not to tarnish the name.
See you on the court,
For Bauerle, Magill was more of an inspiration than a mentor.
When Bauerle took over UGA’s swim program in 1979, he inherited a team in disarray.
In 1978, Georgia had fallen short to multiple inferior opponents, including a defeat at the hands of Brenau.
Thirty-five years later, Bauerle’s six NCAA championship rings sit in his hallway bathroom, only steps away from a 1975 portrait of the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
“I saw the way Coach Magill built his tennis program from the ground up,” Bauerle said. “It gave me hope – it gave us all hope. He took a program with absolutely nothing and shaped it into the best in the country.”
Bauerle, now pacing between the living room and kitchen, continued his search for Magill memorabilia.
What started as a 15-minute hunt evolved into an afternoon project.
“I can’t remember the last time I did this,” he said. “I need to do this more.”
Sharing a love for sports, Magill and Bauerle spent nights in Sanford Stadium and afternoons at Foley Field.
They talked tennis. They talked baseball. They talked Georgia football. Most of all, they talked life.
“One day Dan asked how many countries I had been to,” Bauerle said. “I told him 26 ... he thought that was the coolest thing ever. Coach had a unique ability to make everyone feel special. That’s just the type of man he was.”
From the beginning, Magill made an effort to spend time with the younger Bauerle – a gesture that never went unnoticed.
Aside from the births of his three sons (John, Magill and Duke), Bauerle says the greatest moment of his life was glancing into the stands moments before winning his first NCAA championship in 1999.
“I saw my mom, Coach Magill and Coach Dooley, and they were all sitting together,” Bauerle said. “I thought, ‘Wow. This is as good as it gets.’ But that’s who Dan Magill was. Dan Magill was as good as it gets.”
With no scholarship to offer, Dan Magill invited Allen Miller to join the 1981-82 Georgia tennis team as a walk-on. In 1998, Magill was in attendance for Miller’s induction into the UGA Circle of Honor – the highest honor for former coaches and athletes at Georgia.
Miller and Magill’s relationship spanned 33 years, and what began as an occasionally rocky player/coach tenure evolved into an unbreakable bond.
“Loyalty,” Miller said. “Coach’s loyalty was unbelievable. There was no one more loyal to his country. No one more loyal to his players. Certainly no one more loyal to the University of Georgia.”
Miller’s days as a walk-on didn’t last long. As a sophomore, the left-hander claimed Magill’s first NCAA championship, when he and partner Ola Malmqvist captured the 1983 individual doubles crown.
As a senior in 1985, Miller played No. 3 singles when UGA won their first-ever team title.
But it wasn’t until Miller graduated that his connection with Magill flourished.
“We shared a pretty big common passion: our love for Georgia football,” Miller said. “He respected how much football meant to me and I can’t count the number of conversations we had about our team. Looking back, those moments were really special.”
Similar to Bauerle, what stands out most to Miller was Magill’s ability to communicate – his ability to leave lasting impressions.
The notes. The letters.
“Coach was social media before social media,” Miller said. “He was Twitter before Twitter.”
Miller briefly paused before shifting his mind to Georgia’s season opener against Clemson.
“Sanford Stadium opened in 1929 and Saturday will be the first game where Coach hasn’t been here,” he said. “It’s those little things that keep getting to me, that keep shaking me up. There won’t be anything easy about walking into Sanford this weekend. I’ll be one of many shedding a tear.”