It was formally announced Thursday that Andre Agassi would be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Of course, “formal” is defined loosely when you’re attending a pep rally buoyed by 655 gleeful school kids, a spate of bubbly cheerleaders and the great Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy drum line.
It was all pomp and circumstance at Andre Prep as one of the game’s greatest players, a peerless philanthropist and tireless advocate of education was greeted with a blast of cheers from the entire Agassi Prep student body. A series of letters reading CONGRATULATIONS ANDRE was held by a few center-seated students as Agassi was introduced by ITHF Chairman Christopher E. Clouser in a ceremony at the academy’s gymnasium.
“When I was your age, they told me this would not be possible,” Agassi told the kids, who settled into a rapt silence as he took a faltering microphone to address the young audience. Switching to his own speaking voice, he called out, “My advice to you if you are ever told that is, don’t believe it. I’m proof that this can be possible.”
The induction ceremony for Agassi will be held July 9 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, R.I.
Agassi did offer that he’s planning to open outcroppings of the academy across the country. He’s working with a money-management company based in L.A., Canyon Capital, to develop Andre Agassi Prep Academies in such charter school-friendly cities as Philadelphia.
“I have to adhere to very strict SEC regulations, so we need to be further down the line before I can actually talk more about it, but it will be soon,” Agassi said. “(But) we’re not going to force feed this. We’re going to give the best charter-school operators the ability to expand their footprint at a rapid rate.”
Expect more news from Agassi about this inherently ambitious venture by the end of the summer.
More highlights from Agassi’s visit to the school that bears his name and legacy:
• Agassi remains in good shape but says he’s noticed a change in his physical condition since turning 40 (which happened April 29). “I’ve been going to the gym, but it’s a losing battle for all of us,” he said. “My bench (press) is pushing myself away from the table.”
• The sound system crackled relentlessly, which is noteworthy if only that the Agassi Prep gymnasium is somewhat cursed when it comes to audio technology. This was the site for audio troubles during the first Brian Sandoval-Rory Reid gubernatorial debate (won by Reid in five sets) back in August.
• Agassi still sports a somewhat weathered necklace of block letters reading DADDY ROCKS. It was made five years ago by his son, Jaden Gil, now 9. “It’s been through a few showers,” Agassi said. “I never take it off.”
• When asked if there were any other halls of fame he’d choose to be honored by, Agassi said, “Every time a person comes up to me and tells me what kind of change they have made, that they’ve gotten off their couch and done something because they were so inspired by something that I did, or they saw, that’s enough. It is such a compliment. It just makes me really proud, you know? I’m just focused on the next day. It’s like when I was playing, the most important point was always the next one.”
• Lastly -- and these questions were put to Agassi in order of cultural significance -- what in the world was going on with that reportedly nude photo of Stephanie Graf that Agassi showed to a bidder at a fundraiser recently in Taiwan? He laughed, then said, “Here’s what I will say: My wife is very comfortable, the man in Taiwan is very comfortable, we raised a lot of money, and nobody except those two know exactly what photo I showed. It was early in the year we were raising money, having a lot of fun, but everything is so viral these days. … The truth is, nobody knows exactly what photo I showed, and my wife is OK with it, and that’s all that matters, right?”
We’ll agree: Right.
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