Jamie Hunt, associate head coach of Georgia men’s tennis team, is set to help lead the Bulldogs as they host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tennis tournament this weekend.

Hunt played for the Bulldogs from 2007 to 2010 and helped them win back-to-back national championships in 2007 and 2008.

This year’s team won UGA’s first regular-season Southeastern Conference championship since 2017.

Here, Hunt talks about the Bulldogs’ special season and his career as a UGA player and coach.

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Q: What has been your favorite moment this season so far, and why?

A: Probably after we clinched the SEC regular season when we beat Mississippi State on that Thursday morning. And we brought an old trophy out and we took pictures together as a team. And then the fifth-year seniors took a picture. I remember just having a moment there watching them and just seeing how happy they were in that moment, how proud they were. (That) made me really proud of them because they’ve put so much hard work into accomplishing that. They’re such a great group of guys (and) that was just a really special moment for me seeing how much it meant to them to hold that trophy up.

Q: What is it like to coach for the school that you played for?

A: This is a hobby that I get paid to do. I mean, it’s just something that I love so much. I love this program, it’s given me everything. I love this university. To be able to do something that I love with a group of guys that I recruited that I think so highly of, and love spending time with is, it’s just incredible. There’s so many people that don’t love what they do when they wake up in the morning. I just am so excited to get to work because I love it. I have a true passion for it.

Q: How would you describe your coaching style when it comes to working with the players on their game?

A: Really, it’s about empowering them to believe in themselves and we’re always trying to create weapons. The more weapons players have, the more they’re able to hurt their opponents. So, we’re working on their serve and trying to get it a little bit bigger, a little bit more spin, a little bit more action on that. We’re working on making their forehand or backhand a little bit bigger, where we can hurt our opponent, transition and come to the net. But for each guy, we identify areas of improvement… and then we just go about improving those so they feel as confident as possible stepping out on the court.

Georgia associate head coach Jamie Hunt during Georgia’s second round match of the 2023 NCAA Division I men’s tennis championship against Oklahoma at Henry Feild Stadium (Tony Walsh/UGAAA/Dawgnation)

Q: How did winning two national championships prepare you for your coaching career?

A: I played in the biggest matches that you can compete in as a student-athlete. That’s what we’re trying to do as a coaching staff, as well as to play in SEC championship matches and NCAA championship matches. So, the experience is huge, because I’ve been there. I can relay to these guys kind of what they’re going to go through, the nerves that they’re going to feel. How to respond and how to handle that in the best way possible.

Q: How did your time at Vanderbilt prepare you to come back to Georgia?

A: Coach (Ian) Duvenhage, who was my head coach at Vanderbilt, was an incredible coach. He coached at Miami with the women and then Florida with their men. (He) had very successful runs with those programs. He taught me a lot about tennis and how to get the most out of your players. I think with every year that I’ve coached, I’ve grown so much. Something that I’ve always tried to do is learn as much as I can each year.

Q: What is it like to coach under the SEC’s all-time winningest head coach Manny Diaz?

A: Oh, it’s just a blessing. I mean, it’s not many people get to say that they work with the greatest of all time. I really believe that’s what he is. I am not going to share this with anyone, show them this, but I mean, I have a list of hundreds and hundreds of just bullet points of things that I’ve learned from coach Diaz. Whether it be on the administrative side with scheduling or dealing with parents….There’s so many things, technical, mental coaching points that I’ve learned from him that’s (going to) benefit me for the rest of my career.

Q: Who are some of your biggest coaching influences in addition to coach Duvenhage and coach Diaz?

A: I love honestly looking at other coaches from other sports. I think that’s what makes good coaches is they kind of beg, borrow and steal from other places. I grew up in San Antonio and so Gregg Popovich of the (NBA’s) Spurs is somebody that I’ve always looked up to. He’s had a hall of fame career and somebody that I’ve just tried to kind of look into his coaching style and see how he does things. I think personality-wise we’re very different, but obviously his success has been just so admirable, so I look up to him. Sean McVay of the (NFL’s) Rams, I love his style. Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics (of the NBA) back when he was coaching a few years ago, I thought he did just a tremendous job based on the analytic side of things. How he just really took his emotions out of the result, which was just hard to do I think. So, there’s a lot of guys I look up to.

Q: Not only did you play for and now coach at UGA, you also met your wife here. Can you speak on the importance of UGA in your life?

A: I’m almost getting emotional just as you asked that question. I love this place so much. I think from the first time I stepped on campus… I just said to my dad on my visit, ‘This is it. This is where I want to be. This is where I’m meant to be. This is home.’ The feeling has only grown.

Q: Who is your favorite tennis player of all-time and why?

A: I would have to say Rafael Nadal because I think he represents everything great about the sport. He’s a champion, but it’s about how he goes about becoming a champion. He exemplifies great sportsmanship. But at the same time, he’s just a dog out there. He just competes ferociously for every single point. I admire the way he competes. I admire the way he inspired the next generation of players because he does it the right way.”

Q: Where do you see your career going in the next five to 10 years?

A: Well, I see it being here at Georgia and continuing to hopefully positively impact my student-athletes here. That’s why I got into coaching, because of the impact that my coaches had on me personally. So, you know, I see myself continuing to be hopefully (be) the biggest influence of their lives.

Cadie Carlson is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.