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Jim's conduct went unchecked for so long in part because Gerry Smith, executive director of the Women's Tennis Association, which represents the players, viewed it as a family matter. While there had been rumors of abuse, Smith says he never had any hard evidence. He also said, "This was not in the job description."
Complicating matters further is the fact that Jim can be a warm and personable man. Says Rick Macci, who owns the tennis academy where Mary trains in Delray Beach, "He's a real good guy, and he cares a lot. She didn't just land at Number 14 in the world." Smith also likes Jim personally. "He's a teddy bear," he says. "He was always sorry [after losing control in public], and he always had an excuse."
Mary explains the confusion about her father's character this way: "He's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." He certainly has had multiple identities. Jim Pierce is actually Bobby Glenn Pearce of Greensboro, N.C. He is a convicted felon, a discovery made by tennis writer Cindy Hahn nearly a year ago. When Hahn confronted Jim with his past, he threatened her life. "I've got nothing left," he told Hahn. "When I go, I want everybody to go with me. You have no idea how my mind works." On Nov. 19, 1992, the WTC passed what informally became known as the Jim Pierce rule—an agent, parent or coach can be banned from any or all tour events for his or her courtside conduct—and seven months later the council invoked it against Jim.
Between the ages of 18 and 48, Bobby Glenn Pearce was repeatedly in trouble with the law and spent a total of five years incarcerated. Although he boasts that he is a former Marine, in 1954 he was court-martialed for going AWOL, sentenced to six months of hard labor and given a dishonorable discharge. In 1959 Pearce and a girlfriend were involved in a check-forging scam in Greensboro. He was sentenced to 18 to 24 months in prison, but he escaped after serving only 11 days.
A year later he was arrested in New York City and charged with robbery and grand larceny in the first degree, assault in the second degree and carrying dangerous weapons (two knives). He pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in the third degree and was sentenced to 2½ to four years in prison. It was during this time that he was diagnosed as having schizophrenic and paranoid tendencies and spent time in the psychiatric prison ward in New York City's Bellevue Hospital.
In 1963 the outstanding arrest warrant for his North Carolina prison escape caught up with him, and he was returned in custody to Greensboro, where he spent 16 more months in jail. In 1973 he was arrested for another crime. He and a friend stole a TV set and three acrylic paintings from a hotel lobby in Miami Beach. They were caught a short time later, and Pearce was charged with possession of stolen property. He jumped bail a few weeks later and ended up in Montreal.
There Jim, who has an eighth-grade education, met up with Yannick Adjadj, a Frenchwoman who was completing her Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Montreal. In 1975 Mary was born in Montreal. David was born the following year in Greensboro. Jim did not resolve his legal difficulties in Miami Beach until 1984, when he plea-bargained the stolen-property charge and paid a $1,054 fine. He has had no other known run-ins with the law since then. Yannick says years passed before she knew much about Jim's criminal and psychiatric history. "Things accumulate," she says. "It's like a drop of water falls into a glass every day, and one day the glass spills over." She says Jim has never considered counseling: "He thinks he's fine."
The WTC's ban against Jim is scheduled to end on Nov. 22. Anne Person Worcester, managing director of the council, says his actions between now and then will determine whether it will be extended. Ultimately, though, Mary's relationship with her father will not be determined by what the WTC does or does not do. "We can protect her at tournaments, but when she steps off the tour, these become domestic and family problems," Person Worcester says. "They need to resolve this."
While Jim has said he no longer wishes to be his daughter's coach, his family remains extremely wary. "He's thinking something up," says David.
Can there be a happy ending? What would it entail? For Yannick a happy ending would mean the family could continue on the tour without Jim and without having to hide behind assumed names. For David, the forgotten casualty in all this, it would mean a chance to finish high school and play college tennis. For Mary it would mean an end to the family fighting, which has so drained her. "The happy ending would be for my parents to settle their differences, for my mother to set up something more stable for my brother, and for me to keep my own coach," she says. "And to have a home I could go to."