Comet tennis coach chronicles ‘Davis Cup Memories’
By John Burbridge
If patience is truly a virtue, then Brian Parrott should be in line to be canonized “Saint Brian”.
“Jimmy, John and Harry were powerful personalities,” said Parrott, head coach of the Charles City tennis team. “A lot of what they did was out of my control. I had to focus on what I was doing … the work behind the scenes.”
Jimmy and John are references to mercurial tennis greats Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Harry was a World War II Marine officer and Louisiana-Pacific president Harry Merlo, the chief sponsor of the United States Davis Cup tennis team.
As Director of Davis Cup/Sponsorship Staging at L-P, Parrott had worked with Connors, McEnroe, Merlo and the late, great Arthur Ashe to bring the Davis Cup semifinals to the Portland, Oregon area in 1981 and 1984. An Oregon resident back then, Parrott was the Pacific Northwest Tennis Association executive director at the time.
Later in 2007, Parrott spearheaded a campaign for Portland to host the Davis Cup World Final.
Like golf’s Ryder Cup, the Davis Cup is a country-vs.-country team tournament.
Though back in the early 80s when the United States was well-represented in the Top 10 let alone Top 2 among the best men’s players in the world, the likes of Connors and McEnroe didn’t always play nice together. One of the duties of Parrott, who had built working relationships with Connors and McEnroe before they became famous — or infamous — was to help mitigate conflict between the two, who often didn’t want to be in the same hotel with each other.
But as a chief promoter for the Davis Cup events, Parrott also had to deal with bad actors from other countries, like 19-year-old and future Wimbledon champion Pat Cash from Australia.
“(Cash) had told Ed Fabricus, who was running our press room, to ‘F-off!’ when Ed asked him to participate in a post-match interview with the press after he lost,” Parrott said. “I thought it was disrespectful to Ed, who was just doing his job. I was going to ask Pat to apologize, but I never got the chance because he soon left town after trashing his hotel room.”
Parrott took photos to document the damage, and verified Cash’s actions to a journalist Down Under who caught wind of the transgressions.
“I ran into Cash about three years later,” Parrott said, “and he goes off on me, ‘You no good, bloody son of a …’.”
You get the picture. But if that’s not enough drama for you, Parrott has been serving up much more lately.
On his Facebook page — Brian Sidney Parrott — Parrott has been chronicling his “Davis Cup Memories” for more than a month.
“So far I’ve written 33 chapters in 33 days,” said Parrott, who includes appropriate and sometimes rare photos and news clips with each chapter. “As long as I have all this time on my hands, I’m going to continue writing a chapter every day.”
Parrott’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Many comments on Parrott’s posts come from a “Who’s Who” of tennis dignitaries, including hall-of-famer Dennis Ralston; World Championship Tennis Circuit men’s champion Bob Lutz; Bobby Kramer, son of tennis pioneer Jack Kramer; and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Hallman Jr. of The Oregonian.
“And I’ve been getting comments from people I’ve never heard of,” Parrott said. “People have been sent links to it, so it’s getting around.
“Most of the feedback has been positive. People have said I brought back a lot of memories from that era.”
Parrott often ends his chapters with cliffhangers, like McEnroe walking into a press conference with a pair of Heinekens in his hands.
“What happens next is classic,” Parrott writes, “but that’s enough for tonight … I will give you the ‘Rest of the Story’ tomorrow.”
Shortly before his death in 2016, Merlo suggested that Parrott should write a book about their Davis Cup experiences.
“He was going to help finance the project,” said Parrott, who enlisted Portland Tribune veteran journalist and author Kerry Eggers — noted for his expose “Jail Blazers” detailing an unscrupulous era of the Portland Trail Blazers — to help edit and polish the manuscript.
“But three months later, Harry died and so did the book idea at the time,” Parrott said.
Parrott has loved to write ever since he was a kid, and aspired to become a sports editor like his father, Harold Parrott.
“My dad advised me against it,” Parrott said as his father was probably concerned about the future financial hardships his son would endure.
“But my dad was able to make good money on the side writing magazine articles,” Parrott said. “One time he did an magazine article on (Brooklyn Dodger president and general manager) Branch Rickey, and Rickey liked it so much that he hired him as his advisor and secretary.”
The elder Parrott would later write a book “The Lords of Baseball” set during the 1947 season when the Dodgers most notably broke the color barrier with the signing of Jackie Robinson.
Though Parrott has finally got the downtime to write about his Davis Cup as well as other pro tennis experiences, he still wishes he could be coaching the Comets right now as the season — as well as other high school spring sport seasons — has been cancelled due to the pandemic.
“We had 24 girls going out this year,” said Parrott, whose team was coming off a seven-match-win season at the varsity level while being undefeated in junior varsity matches last year. “At least we can say we didn’t lose a match this year.
“They’re going to resurface the courts at Sportsman’s Park, so that’s something to look forward to next year.”
Parrott still plans to give Charles City YMCA Tennis Lessons as well as one-on-one tennis lessons this summer.
Parrott also plans to keep on writing during the pandemic … or maybe beyond as he has plenty of sport-celebrity stories and anecdotes and photos to boot that can outlast most armageddons.
“Maybe I’ll write a chapter or two about the original ‘Dream Team’,” said Parrott, who organized Portland’s successful bid to host the Western Hemisphere Basketball Qualifying Tournament for the 1992 Barcelona, Spain, Olympics. The qualifier was the first time the world saw the Dream Team in action.
Jordan, Magic, Bird, Charles … just what a sprawling epic needs, more powerful larger-than-life personalities.