Nick Bollettieri knows a lot about breakups. Seven divorces have given the famed tennis coach a good perspective.
Put all those divorces together and they don't add up to how grueling the past few weeks have been for the 77-year old patriarch of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
In the past month he has watched as members of his tennis family have been ripped apart in the course of corporate changes. In a world where little stands in the way of the bottom line, people who have been in the trenches with Bollettieri for 30 years, or more, have lost their jobs.
Each one hit close to home but maybe none quite like Greg Breunich, who is Bollettieri's son-in-law.
"Except, perhaps the passing of my mother, father and brother dying, I would say this is the most difficult period of my life," Bolletteiri said. "This has been a very complex time for me, but, in the world of today, we must go on and that is the imperative thing."
Still, Bollettieiri understands that changes can be positive and in a business world these changes might be best for the academy. But that does not lessen the pain of losing longtime friends and co-workers.
Breunich and Ted Meekma had been with Bollettieiri from the beginning. Both are gone now, along with Jeff McNeil, the chief financial officer, director of tennis Gabrial Jaramillo, and others.
Bollettieri remains and he's determined to make the academy better.
But things change. IMG bought Bollettieri's academy. Where once the financial records of the academy were strewn over Bollettieri's coffee table, IMG brought an order of professionalism.
The investment firm of Fortsmann Little & Company bought out IMG in 2004. The company, led by Ted Forstmann, has a history of making companies leaner and more profitable. That is what is happening now at the IMG Academy.
Still, it has to be stressful for even someone like Bollettieri, who has always let criticism and trouble roll off his back. You can hear the hurt in Bollettieri's voice when asked about those who were lost in the shakeup.
But there is also an enthusiasm when he talks about the future. Sometimes good can come out of change.
Chip Brooks has also been with Bollettieri almost from the start. IMG announced Thursday that Brooks will oversee the NBTA.
"I have always had the best staff in the world and that is no different today," Bollettieri said in the release announcing the promotion of Brooks. "In fact, IMG has made a personal commitment to me to provide additional resources to add to my staff as I see fit."
The legacy he leaves is important to Bollettieri and the chance to make the academy even stronger is appealing. He is back to becoming more involved with the students at the academy, saying, "I am out there walking the grounds again and it is fantastic."
There was always an excitement when Bollettieri was on the tennis courts, giving instructions to his coaches or showing a student how to hit the tennis ball.
That, along with the changes of personnel at the top, is one of the changes for the new year.
"I am going to be involved in every aspect of the program," Bollettieri said. "I will be working with all levels of players. I kind of like being back in the trenches. I think this is what made me, being in the trenches."
That's the way things began for Bollettieri in the late 1970s when he took the job at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. Not long after arriving he began bringing in junior players and soon there were thoughts of forming a junior academy.
Those thoughts became a reality when, with the help of investors, a tomato field in Manatee County was turned into tennis courts.
The notoriety his academy has brought to the area cannot be precisely calculated. But it safe to say it has been immense.
Among the players who have trained at the academy are: Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova, Boris Becker, Serena and Venus Williams. There have been countless others who moved here to take part in the most prestigious junior academy in the world, directly impacting the community in numerous ways.
But the players are only part of the equation. Entire families have moved here and their impact spreads.
Dick Vitale was one of those who moved his family to the area so that his daughters could attend the academy. Vitale has been an ambassador for the area in both deeds and publicity. Many of his acquaintances have moved to the area.
Bottom line. Bollettieri, and his academy, have been wonderful for the area.