It was one of the hardest conversations Mario Rincon has ever had, sitting down his wife and their three daughters — ages 16, 13 and 9 — and telling them that his contract as University of Miami men’s tennis coach was not renewed.
Rincon, 48, had never been fired before, but that was — in essence — what happened earlier this month.
Just like that, Rincon’s 12-year run as Canes coach was over.
“It’s hard — from one meeting to another, you are disconnected from the athletic department and the guys on the team,” Rincon said. “It feels weird.
“We have to try to sell our home and find new schools for the girls. … The worst thing was telling my wife and daughters. But that’s real life. The girls will learn that things like this happen.”
Rincon compiled a 152-136 record at Miami, leading the Canes to five NCAA appearances and coaching four All-Americans. He also led UM to two Sweet 16 appearances, in 2006 and ’09, and was the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year in 2006, when the Canes won the league title.
But the Canes struggled to an 8-15 record this season, including a 3-9 mark in the ACC.
A native of Colombia, Rincon was an All-American tennis player at the University of Kentucky. He had limited success in the pro ranks, but he did represent Colombia in nine Davis Cup ties.
Rincon felt good about this year’s team after a 4-3 upset of No. 47 Florida State on March 6. That win left unranked Miami 6-4 overall, 1-0 in the ACC and full of confidence.
But right after that, UM lost No. 2 singles player Christian Langmo to an academic issue, and the Canes went 2-11 the rest of the season.
Rincon has sent out résumés to a few college coaching jobs that are open.
In the meantime, he is — on his own — training Canes No. 1 singles player Piotr Lomacki. They leave on Monday for Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Lomacki will compete in the NCAA Individual Tennis Championships.
“It’s really awkward because I’m training him right there at UM,” Rincon said. “But at least I get to finish the year with the kid and give him a chance to do well.
“I had a great 12 years at Miami. I made so many friends and had a lot of fun. It was a great privilege to be here. Unfortunately, I didn’t win enough. But I can’t complain. I’m thankful to all the players, coaches and administrators I worked with over the years.
“Hopefully, I will get another opportunity to coach tennis at a high level.”
As for Miami, whoever the Canes hire to succeed Rincon won’t have it easy. In men’s tennis, schools get only 4 1/2 scholarships to divide among 10 players. The top three players generally get full or nearly full scholarships, which leaves about two scholarships to divide among seven players.
To be successful, a coach would ideally have to find outstanding players whose families are rich enough to pay the difference between available scholarship money and a private school tuition.
Finding players who can attend UM on academic scholarship is even more difficult because the standard to earn that award is so high.
Meanwhile, Lomacki, a sophomore from Poland who made second-team All-ACC, is the first Canes player since 2009 to make the NCAA field.
He is ranked 42nd nationally and will be one of 64 players in the tournament.