Howie Farer, 45-year Poly tennis coach, steps down
Tennis: Pasadena Poly begins new era after long-time Coach Howie Farer steps down from program after 948 victories, 45 league titles and seven CIF Southern Section titles.
Pasadena Poly begins new era after long-time Coach Howie Farer steps down from program after 948 victories, 45 league titles and seven CIF Southern Section titles. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / July 25, 2012)
For beginners, there was no girls’ team and few boys at Poly had any concept of tennis.
“The program then is not really what it is today,” Farer, 68, said. “Girls were not a part of the CIF and we weren’t that good to begin with. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished since then.”
Like 1967, Poly tennis embarks in a new direction as Farer recently announced he will not return for a 46th season as both the girls’ and boys’ coach.
“I retired basically because I thought it was the right time. I have some family issues I have to deal with,” said Farer, a San Gabriel resident. “It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. When you’ve spent a good part of your adult life in tennis, having to give it up is a very hard decision.”
Farer will be replaced by two individuals — husband and wife Sheryl and Boris Bakalov — as girls’ and boys’ team coaches, respectively.
“Howie is the ultimate professional, I’ll miss him very much,” Poly Athletic Director Steve Beerman said. “Howie is a conscientious, hard-working colleague and he’s always doing what is best for Poly.”
Poly’s website lists a combined total of 948 victories for Farer’s boys’ and girls’ teams along with 45 Prep League championships.
Overall, Poly won seven CIF Southern Section titles over 16 appearances, with the girls taking home four crowns in seven tries and the boys winning three titles in nine attempts.
Poly reached its zenith in the 1990s when the boys and girls combined to play in nine championship matches, including Poly’s last boys’ title in 1992.
The Poly girls finished off the decade with four straight championships, including their last title in 1997.
“Off hand, we were probably the tennis school of the 90s,” Farer said. “We were very competitive in those days and have remained competitive.”
One accomplishment Farer takes equal pride in is his team’s classroom dominance, as Poly has won 14 CIF-SS Academic team championships, which are granted to teams that boast the highest GPA in each sport per division.
“I take special pride in those,” Farer said. “Those speak more about the type of kids we’ve had in the program than anything else.”
Beside championships, Farer changed tennis in the CIF Southern Section in 2001 when he created and lobbied for the implementation of the substitution rule, which allows more than nine players to participate in any given match.
“Before the rule, you were stuck with the same players you started the match with,” Farer said. “You couldn’t sub in less-experienced players, even if you were up big.
“The significance of the rule, though, is if someone got hurt, you just forfeited those points and couldn’t bring anyone else in.”
Perhaps it was fate Farer’s last team match came against nonleague rival Arcadia in the second round of the Division II playoffs, a contest the Apaches won, 12-6.
In that match, Farer was upended by perhaps the only other tennis coach in the San Gabriel Valley who can understand his longevity, Arcadia 40-year veteran Jerry Dohling.
“Howie’s best doubles player wasn’t even at the match and his team still battled, like we knew they would,” Dohling said. “When you face a Howie Farer team, whether in 1986 or 2006, you knew they very going to be a very well-coached team, even until the end.”