Jan. 13, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. -- The face of Ole Miss men's tennis, head coach Billy Chadwick will step down at the end of the 2014 season, having coached at Ole Miss for 34 years, including 30 years at the helm of the men's program.
In 1983, when he took over the program, they were last in the Southeastern Conference. The Rebels broke into the national rankings in 1986. His first recruit, Dave Randall, who went on to become the first Mississippian to advance at Wimbledon, Chadwick said, took the program to the next level, leading them to their first NCAA Team Championship appearance in 1989.
The defining moment for the program, Chadwick said, was the 1995 NCAA Semifinal match against the home team, Georgia, as Ole Miss went on to advance to the finals of the NCAA Team Championships.
"The Rebs were up 6-5 in the third set, and we have match point," Chadwick recalled. "We hit a winner, and it was 6,000 people silent. And then the most amazing thing happened: They stood up and gave us a standing ovation.
"Many said it was the greatest match they had every witnessed. It was one of those moments that I sit and look back, and that was the defining moment for Ole Miss tennis. Since then, we haven't looked back."
Including 1995, Chadwick's teams have made 20 consecutive NCAA appearances, and his teams have finished ranked in the nation's top five seven times, and have earned a top-10 ranking 15 times. The Rebels have won 18 Southeastern Conference team titles, including five overall SEC Championships, 10 Western Division titles and three SEC Tournament Championships.
"I have looked up to him since I was a kid" said former player Devin Britton, the 2009 NCAA Singles Champion. "He's been the face of Ole Miss tennis. It will be different without him. It is sad to see him go. He has definitely put his time in and he's been one of the best coaches in college tennis. You look at his body of work, and it's incredible what he has accomplished.
"I wouldn't have accomplished all I did if I had not come to Ole Miss and played for Coach Chadwick, so I give him a lot of credit for a lot of my results. I'm just happy to be a part of his legacy."
When Chadwick stepped to the podium and looked around the M-Club Room in the Starnes Athletic Center at the announcement Monday, he saw what he calls the Ole Miss family, and that's what he said this program is all about and has always been about.
"When I sit back and think about all the kids that have come through, that is what I'm most proud of," Chadwick said. "Every single one of these kids that have come through, they have been great on the court, they have been great students, and they have been great ambassadors for Ole Miss."
"I have been around long enough to know that you care about them, not only about playing tennis, but you care about them as student-athletes and their performance in the classroom and performance in life," Chancellor Dan Jones said.
Associate head coach Toby Hansson, in his eighth year with the men's program, will succeed Chadwick at the end of the 2014 season.
"I'm really glad he stayed this long and will finish this season as well. It's been seven years, going on eight years, as associate head coach, and I would not have minded staying for another couple of years. It's been an amazing journey," Hansson said.
With the start of the 2014 season less than a week away, Chadwick, Hansson and the team are focused on the task at hand and sending Chadwick out on a high note.
"I told them I want to make this our best spring," Chadwick said. "I challenged them. I want to go out on top. I want to push this thing hard. I told Nik Scholtz; I said, `You listen to me and you listen to me close: The very last match of the year is the finals of the NCAA in singles. You're going to be playing in it and you're going to win it.'"
"Everybody is getting a little bit of a boost from this," Hansson said. "Billy makes the players feel like they want to play for him, more so maybe this year when they know that he's going to be leaving after this year. They want to make this year a special year. They're all excited about that, so there will be an extra boost."
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller