Adrian Ezra '94
Squash - Hall of Fame Class of 2009
During Harvard Squash’s Golden Era in the early 1990’s, Adrian Ezra emerged as one of the top players Harvard has ever seen on the court. As a four-time individual national champion on wide court and three-time individual champion on narrow court, Adrian was an integral part of four straight National Nine Man Champion and Ivy League Champion Teams from 1991-1994. During his illustrious career, Adrian was honored as a First Team All Ivy selection and as an All America four times. He also won the award for Ivy League Player of the year in 1992 and in 1994.
A hard working and tenacious player on the court, Adrian was the 1994 co-recipient, with fellow Hall of Fame inductee Michael Giardi, of the Bingham Award for Harvard male athlete who has best served the purpose of Harvard Athletics.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
I would like to thank the Varsity Club for bestowing this honour upon me. Squash has played a fundamental and rewarding role in my life for over 25 years and is a sport that continues to give me great pleasure and satisfaction. I am therefore thrilled to be recognised in this manner amongst such exceptional athletes.
Harvard provided me with a unique educational and sporting experience and, despite squash being predominantly an individual sport, opened my eyes to the values of training and competing with a team. The embracement of the concept of ‘The Team’ in a very individual sport can only be a credit to the quality of the Harvard Program, its coaches and all those who worked hard behind the scenes during the Season.
Growing up in Bombay, where the harsh winters rarely fell below 70 degrees, I was not fully prepared for the freezing Boston winter. I vividly remember looking out the window in December of my Freshman year, seeing a blue sky and trying to head to the courts in just my tracksuit. I never did that again. You learn quickly when you can’t feel your ears!
The challenge for me at Harvard was not limited to the weather. I was introduced to Hardball (the American version of squash that I had never played before), team squash and that elusive quest for academic and athletic balance all at once. The transition was overwhelming and I think that a large part of finding the balance for me was down to the guidance and understanding of the coaches. I had the pleasure of working with Steve Piltch, Dave Fish, Bill Doyle and of course Jack Barnaby during my four years, and I am grateful to each of them for the time and effort they put in to mentor and coach what I could only describe as a very difficult character.
I had always known a squash coach to be just that, a coach on a squash court. However, what I got from the Program was so much more. Steve Piltch, who was the head coach during my Freshman and Sophomore years, bore the brunt of the work turning me from a kid who wanted to play squash 8 hours a day, to a college student who had to balance academics with athletics, participate in a team and still maintain a drive to win. I thank him for his patience and efforts over those two fantastic years and still fondly remember him taking the time to get to the track for 7a.m. so that he could time my sprints before 9a.m. classes. The rest of the team was soon forced to show up as well. I was not the most popular “team player” that fall.
Bill Doyle had a very different problem on his hands. I was a slightly more confident and significantly lazier junior, more likely to lead a game of Liar’s Poker on those long bus rides than lead a 7am sprint session. His was much more a test of patience which he passed with flying colours.
It is an honour to be recognized for playing a game that I love, and although I achieved a successful individual record, my favourite memories are of the team, the endless road trips and playing alongside true characters like Jeremy and Jordanna Fraiberg, Farokh Pandole, Tal Ben Shahar, George Polsky and Jon Karlen just to name a few.
My most memorable moment in four years of squash at Harvard would have to be Tal Ben-Shahar winning the deciding point in the final of the 1994 Team Nationals against Yale in New Haven. I remember trying to win my own match quickly so that I would be able to get a seat to watch. I didn’t get a seat, and had to judge the score from the reaction of the crowd from the court next door. Since we were playing at Yale, the crowd would go wild whenever they won a point and very quiet when Tal did. Both my opponent and I just spread out on our own court listening. With the team score at 4-4, Tal playing the final match, his own score at 2-2 and 14-14 in the 5th, that last point was probably my most vivid memory in all my years playing the game and I didn’t even get to watch it.
What I have taken away from Harvard and Harvard Squash is so much more than becoming a better squash player. The experience has made me a better friend, teammate, athlete and student and I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates for being involved in that process over the years. My desire to win has not faded in the 15 years since I left and I am grateful to all the people I have mentioned, and to so many I have not, all of whom made my time at Harvard unforgettable.