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Men's tennis: Kauffmann a perfect fit in his dream job

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Cedric Kauffmann was named head coach of UK men's tennis on Wednesday. (Chet White. UK Athletics) Cedric Kauffmann was named head coach of UK men's tennis on Wednesday. (Chet White. UK Athletics)
Life changes. You get your first job. You work hard and pay your dues. If you're lucky enough, you get promoted. Eventually, if you've worked hard and long enough, you get the job you've always dreamed of.

For Cedric Kauffmann, life is changing rapidly.

On Wednesday, Kauffmann was named the successor to Dennis Emery and became the 12th head coach in Kentucky men's tennis program history. The fit could not be any more perfect.

"It's been a really good week," said Kauffmann. "It's been a bit of a honeymoon. I'll come back to earth. The baby just got home. I'm just lucky my wife is very supportive and she does a lot of the work. But yeah, it's been a very good week for the Kauffmann family."

Yeah, and the man just welcomed his fourth child into the world earlier in the week. Life is changing, alright.

Kauffmann, who served as Emery's right-hand man as an assistant for the tennis team since 2005, has been pretty lucky to find himself in favorable situations throughout his career. Initially, he was lightly recruited by Emery to come to Kentucky as a player. Shortly into his collegiate career, Kauffmann wondered if Lexington may not be the place for him.

In hindsight, he could not have been more wrong.

"At the beginning, we both got lucky for me to come and him to recruit me," said Kauffmann. "He was not recruiting me highly, but when I went to school, he and I had a tough first year. For me, I was used to a certain coach for about four years and he had a little bit of a different style. So we butted heads and I think with all of the players he's had, they butt heads, but they realize he really cares about them. It's not just the tennis aspect,
but in life."

Now, Kauffmann couldn't imagine a better place for he and his family to be. His wife Caroline is a Lexington, Ky., native. Her family lives here, and since his time as a player and now into his coaching career, they have built several strong relationships in the community.

After his playing days at Kentucky, Kauffmann turned professional and played several years in the ATP. He played in two Grand Slam events in the 2000 United States Open and the 2001 French Open. In his 2001 French Open appearance, Kauffmann went toe-to-toe with Pete Sampras in a first-round five-set thriller. Kauffmann reached No. 170 in the ATP before ending his professional career.

Then it was time to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He found it in coaching, but it took him some time to realize it. The rest of it came together rather quickly.

Life was changing.

"When I stopped playing on the ATP tour, it was kind of a transition, I said I'll just go teach," said Kauffmann. "It was kind of easy money to go teach tennis lessons for six months, and I really enjoyed it more than I thought it would. I stayed in Cincinnati for about two and a half years. Then the same thing, the timing of Greg Van Emburgh getting the head coaching job at Wisconsin opened up the assistant job (at UK), and Coach Emery had a list of two or three people. He came and talked to me and I took the job."

The rest is history.

He's spent the last seven years as Emery's assistant, but the desire to be a head coach didn't take long to develop. Though his first few seasons at Kentucky were tough, it was clear that Kauffmann hoped to be a head coach someday.

"We struggled the first two or three years I was here," said Kauffmann. "They were a long two or three years. But I realized we were getting better and I was doing better on the recruiting trail and it was just exciting to go recruiting and try to get someone to play for you and connect with that player. So I feel like after two years I knew this is what I wanted to do for a while."

Now he has a chance to give back. After everything that Emery and his previous coaches had done for him, Kauffmann relishes in the opportunity to help out his players. It could have been anywhere, but once again, the perfect situation presented itself. When Emery stepped down at men's tennis coach to become Special Assistant to the Athletic Director, his dream position opened up. Kauffmann was the logical choice to succeed Emery, and it was an easy decision.

"I played my four years in Lexington," said Kauffmann. "I didn't know much about it. I took a recruiting visit, but I loved the city, I loved the people, even more than I thought I would. And playing four years, doing pretty well, and coming back to be an assistant. The timing of Coach (Emery) retiring and me coming in doesn't work out for a lot of people. It just did for me, and I really appreciate it."

He's right. That type of situation doesn't work out for everyone. But it's more than luck. Kauffmann has always been viewed as a valuable asset to the men's tennis program and keeping him in the fold was a priority. For now, the perfect situation continues for he and his family. They will be in Lexington for the foreseeable future and he'll be at the helm for as long as he can.

"I was thinking a little bit over the last year, how long (Emery) would stay as head coach," said Kauffmann. "So I've kind of had thoughts, should I just go and interview for other jobs so I can take care of my family. But like I said, it just worked out perfect. Right now I'm very eager, I'm very hungry still, so I'll try to stay here as long as I can and we'll see in a couple years. Life changes."

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