OXFORD, Miss. — In January, Ole Miss celebrated men’s tennis coach Billy Chadwick, as he announced he would step down at the end of the 2014 season, after 35 years, including 31 years at the helm of the men’s program.
In May, the sport of tennis celebrated him, as he was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Hall of Fame, while also coaching SEC Player of the Year and three-time All-American Nik Scholtz at the NCAA Singles Championship.
Scholtz’s run to the Sweet 16 marked the last matches of Chadwick’s legendary career, having coached the Rebels to their 21st consecutive NCAA Championship bid and a 4-1 win over Northwestern to reach the regional final.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime event in Athens getting to be there to coach in the NCAA Singles Championship and then being inducted into the ITA Hall of Fame,” Chadwick said. “It was a whirlwind. It was a great experience. I really appreciate the following of administrators and lifelong fans we had come over from Ole Miss. It was a great evening and a great week.”
“It really motivated me to try to push myself to win,” Scholtz said. “Coach has been a big part of my success, and it was great to be a part of his last matches and to see him inducted into the hall of fame. I’m really happy that I will always be the last match that he coached. I never thought about it, but it’s an honor to be that guy.”
In his last season, Chadwick coached Scholtz to SEC Player of the Year honors and a final national ranking of No. 14 in singles, making him the highest ranked player in the league. The Rebels were the only team in the nation to have an All-American and an Academic All-American, as Johan Backstrom was named a Capital One Academic All-American this week.
Chadwick began his coaching career with the women’s program in 1979, and in 1982 he led the Lady Rebels to the SEC finals, AIAW Nationals and the program's first top 20 national ranking.
In 1983, Chadwick took over the men’s team, and he turned it into one of the nation’s top programs on and off the courts. Among his career highlights were an appearance in the NCAA Team Championship Final, four appearances in the NCAA Semifinals, an NCAA Doubles Championship and an NCAA Singles Championship.
With his fifth overall SEC Championship in 2009, Chadwick trails only legendary football coach John Vaught in SEC titles won at Ole Miss. Chadwick’s teams also won 10 SEC Western Division titles and three SEC Tournament Championships.
“If you look back, we have had exceptional players, including this year with Johan (Backstrom) being named an Academic All-American and Nik being named SEC Player of the Year,” Chadwick said. “We have had extraordinary players come through the program for the last 25-30 years. That’s what I will take with me. When they come in, they become part of the Ole Miss family here. It’s been a real honor to be able to work with such outstanding young men.”
Chadwick is set to retire on June 30, but he remains involved in the management of the program as he prepares to hand the reins to associate head coach Toby Hansson.
“I have been helping Toby in making some decisions on different things for next year, as far as scheduling and helping him with his game plan going forward,” Chadwick said. “It’s also been a whirlwind because my oldest son is getting married, and so we have been doing a lot in preparation for that.
“With Toby being named the next head coach early, we were able to take advantage of recruits knowing who was going to be the coach. Toby has a great reputation, and as a result, he had one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. I’m proud that I’m leaving the program in great shape.”
With Scholtz, the Rebels return six of their top seven players from this year’s team and will be bolstered by one of the nation’s top recruiting classes in Gustav Hansson of Sweden, Zvonimir Babic of Croatia and Mazen Osama of Egypt.
Chadwick looks forward to taking a step back and becoming a fan, not only of the men’s tennis team but all the athletics programs at Ole Miss.
“I’m going to sit back and take a deep breath,” Chadwick said. “I’m looking forward to becoming a fan, not only of tennis, but the other sports. We play almost every weekend. So many times we’re not here for the home football games. Rarely, in the spring, do we get to go to a home basketball game or baseball game.”
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