Ex-Tiger coach finds success in new post in Southeast Asia

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Chuck Kriese has sat in the Wimbledon coach's box, battled swarms of mosquitoes in his home and carefully sidestepped pythons in his first year of molding Southeast Asian tennis in Thailand.

Through it all the former longtime Clemson tennis coach has managed to keep his sense of purpose, winning over players wary of a foreign-born leader.

"I don't know how else to say this, but God sure must have a sense of humor," Kriese said between sessions at a tennis camp in Sumter.

It's one explanation for how Kriese was unable to win an NCAA championship in 33 seasons with Clemson's men, yet helped direct 17-year-old Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, of Thailand, to the girls singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon earlier this month.

Kriese was asked after the Wimbledon wins if he would go home to bask in the adulation and celebration.

"If you're any dang good, you'll stay in the background and push your players forward," he said.

That's what the 59-year-old Kriese has tried to do with his daunting new job. As the tennis technical director for Southeast Asia, he's been charged with coordinating the sports' efforts for 15 far-flung and, at times, culturally disparate countries.

"I cannot help but think that this could be his greatest contribution to the tennis world," Robert Davis, a former Clemson player and touring coach who pitched Kriese for the position said in an e-mail. "Developing not one player, or a team, but an entire region for generations to come."

The transition hasn't always been smooth. Travel is long and grueling.

For Kriese, wife Claire, and their three preschool-age children -- Lillian, 5; Paul 3; and Adeline, 22 months -- "living has been hard," he acknowledged.

Kriese must walk several blocks for fresh water to cook. At night, he blasts the air conditioner to freeze out the mosquitoes that invade the home.

And then there are the snakes. Claire has seen two large snakes and Chuck is always looking down to avoid surprises.

After a few weeks in Thai-land, Claire wasn't sure she and the children could last.

The Krieses, though, called on their faith and drew resolve from the friendly faces they've met.

"Look man, millions of people live here and they do fine," Kriese said he told himself. "You get your priorities right and you'll be fine, too."

They returned to the United States as planned in April, then Chuck began traveling Europe with Thai players like Lertcheewakarn.

The Krieses will return to Bangkok in September ready for year two. "I believe in this mission," he said. "And it's a great one."


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