It was a balmy summer day in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Sean Maymi had a lot on his plate.
Sitting in his office, the Nebraska men’s tennis head coach was juggling recruiting, managing the program budget and constructing the Cornhuskers’ upcoming schedule, among other offseason tasks. But in the back of his mind, he knew that all of that might soon become irrelevant.
Because for a month and a half, Maymi had been interviewing, hoping and waiting in anticipation for a career-changing hire.
And on that day in late July, Maymi finally got the call. It was Elizabeth Heinrich — Michigan’s senior assistant athletic director — telling him he’d been hired to replace Adam Steinberg as the head coach for the Wolverines.
For a moment, Maymi was excited. He broke the news to his wife, Samantha, who’s from Ann Arbor and is a Michigan alum. But then, he switched back into coaching mode.
“My mind just kind of shifted to ‘OK, what do I need to do to get there and be able to help the team, and get better, and start recruiting, and doing all the little things that need to get done?’ ” Maymi told The Michigan Daily.
Now at the helm of a familiar program, he’s ready to get to work answering his own questions.
New coaches, new culture
Maymi’s no stranger to Michigan men’s tennis, serving two stints as assistant coach under Bruce Berque and Steinberg, respectively. His second stretch as assistant coach, from 2015-18, marked a turning point for the program.
The partying and flippant team culture of past years was thrown out and replaced with a heavy emphasis on work ethic, accountability and improvement. Soon enough, the Wolverines soared: season records went from ordinary to elite, and NCAA and Big Ten Tournament runs became routine.
Now, Maymi holds the reins. He still talks with Steinberg frequently, but didn’t need to ask for advice throughout the hiring process. After all, Maymi was critical in the program’s reform, and lived and relished Michigan men’s tennis for years — there were no trade secrets Steinberg had that Maymi didn’t know.
However, one piece of advice stood out:
“One thing that Steiny said was ‘You gotta do it your way,’ ” Maymi said. “I’m not trying to do something that Steiny was doing, because I’m not him, you know? And I’ve learned a lot from him, but I can’t act like him. I can only act like how I am, and what I believe in is not often the same as someone else.”
For a program mired in change, Maymi’s unique perspective and coaching philosophy may be exactly what it needs. A key part of that perspective comes with the addition of former-Liberty assistant coach Trevor Foshey to replace Benjamin Becker, who quietly left the Wolverines over the summer.
Foshey, like Maymi, believes that Michigan has the ability to be the best program in the country. Both, however, have different expectations than the prior coaching staff.
Expectations for the season and the future
Two years ago when the Wolverines’ historic Elite Eight run was stomped out by Ohio State, they came into the following 2022-23 season determined to prove that their previous success wasn’t a fluke. They had only lost one player, and — after falling three wins short of a National Championship — were more than motivated to bring a trophy back to Ann Arbor.
The expectation was clear: this team wouldn’t be satisfied unless they were crowned National Champions come May.
And after they exited the NCAAs crestfallen following a loss to TCU, Maymi and Foshey are wary to set similarly lofty expectations.
“I’ve told the guys this, and I really believe (it) — that it’s not if you don’t win the national championship, it was a bust,” Foshey said. “There’s so much more that goes into a season.”
Foshey and Maymi know that putting the burden of National Championship expectations on their players is unrealistic and counteractive, especially after significant roster turnover.
The Ondrej Styler-Andrew Fenty-Patrick Maloney triumvirate has graduated. With the loss of its top three players, Michigan will look to seniors Gavin Young, Nino Ehrenschneider and Jacob Bickersteth to emerge as leaders and stabilize the lineup.
“All the guys are going to be playing a new role this year,” Maymi said. “… The guys that maybe weren’t in the lineup or a freshman that’s come in are going to be asked to contribute. So right now, everyone has an opportunity and everyone’s putting forth a great effort and we’re kind of waiting to see who emerges from that pack.”
Last year, the Wolverines’ season-long shuffle of players at No. 5 and 6 was a testament to their historic depth. Unlike last year, this season’s lineup shuffles — in both singles and doubles — will be a necessity to fill the gaps left by turnover. With half of the doubles lineup gone, the Wolverines have been testing a myriad of combinations.
“We tried different teams out because we’re trying to find what can work,” Foshey told The Daily. “You can go for the style of, ‘Hey, let’s play the strongest guys all together,’ or maybe split up some guys and try to make deeper teams. There’s different strategies you can go with. Luckily, we have some really good doubles players.”
This roster has shown flashes of talent in the preseason — look to Young’s semifinal run at the ITA All-Americans — but those results are no predictor, as the preseason is inundated with singles and doubles tournaments.
Through Maymi’s coaching, he hopes to turn those flashes into fundamentals and maximize his program’s potential.
Because now, as he sits in his new office overlooking the maize and blue courts of the Varsity Tennis Center, he’s fueled by the same excitement that overtook him months ago.