John M. “Jack” Barnaby, a 1932 Harvard graduate who coached Crimson tennis and squash teams for seven decades, passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at his home in Lexington. He was 92 years old.
Barnaby was appointed the head coach of Harvard men’s tennis and squash in 1937 after five years as an assistant coach under Harry Cowles. Except for a short period during World War II when Harvard didn’t field formal teams, Barnaby held those posts until 1976, and later coached the women’s squash team from 1979 until 1982. For the next decade, he served as a special assistant in the Harvard tennis and squash programs.
His overall head coaching mark in the three sports was an amazing 745-257-3. With Barnaby at the helm, the men’s squash teams went 346-95, winning 16 Ivy League titles and 17 National Championships. In tennis, he led the Crimson to a 371-158-3 overall record and captured six Eastern Intercollegiate Tennis Association/Ivy League titles. In his three years as women’s squash coach, Harvard went 28-4 and won the 1982 Howe Cup.
Dave Fish ’72, who played for Barnaby while an undergraduate and succeeded him as Harvard’s tennis and squash coach, called his mentor the “John Wooden of racquet sports.”
“Jack always told us, ‘if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it well,’ and he led by example,” said Fish, who coached men’s squash for 13 years and is now in his 26th season as Harvard’s men’s tennis coach. “He was a cerebral coach, an easy-to-read author, an ethical leader, and a heady investor and businessman. Above all, he loved to teach, and never tired of doing so.
“And while Jack would be the first to say that he was only teaching us to ‘play a game,’ his lessons have served us even better off the court, and will continue to do so. We will miss him, but we will not forget him.”
After one year at Williston Academy, Barnaby enrolled at Harvard in 1928, playing both tennis and squash for the Crimson before graduating cum laude in 1932 with a degree in Romance languages. As a senior, he reached the semifinals in the squash intercollegiates and played number two on the Crimson’s National Championship team. Barnaby was later the runner-up in the 1935 and 1948 Massachusetts Open Squash Championships.
Barnaby had tenures as president of the U.S. Professional Tennis Association, vice president of the New England Professional Tennis Association, and president of the Youth Tennis Foundation of New England. He authored numerous articles and books on tennis and squash, among them “Tennis Brief,” “Squash Racquets in Brief,” “Racquet Work – The Key To Tennis,” “Advantage Tennis – Racquet Work,” and “Tactics and Logic.”
He was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Association (ITCA) Tennis Hall of Fame in 1982 and the National Intercollegiate Squash Racquets Association (NISRA) Squash Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1995, Barnaby was inducted into the United States Tennis Association/New England Hall of Fame, an event emceed by longtime friend – and 1994 inductee – Bud Collins. He also received the Gardner Chase Memorial Award, given to the person who has contributed the most to New England Tennis, while the U.S. Squash Racquets Association bestowed upon him the “President’s Cup” in appreciation for his efforts in furthering the sport.
Barnaby was presented a special Major “H” by the Harvard Department of Athletics in 1952, recognizing his achievements while an undergraduate. In 1985, he was presented the Harvard Medal during commencement exercises, receiving the only University-wide award honoring extraordinary service to Harvard. Barnaby was chosen for the Harvard Varsity Club Award in 1988.
Barnaby is survived by his wife, Charlotte, and their three children.