OXFORD, Miss. – A recurring theme among those who attended Friday’s retirement celebration for Ole Miss men’s tennis head coach Billy Chadwick was family. His Ole Miss family honored the hall of fame coach by naming court one the “Billy Chadwick Center Court.”
“I was absolutely surprised,” said Chadwick after letting it sink in for awhile. “It’s such a tremendous honor. So many great players through the years have graced these courts, especially that court. I am humbled.”
Several of Chadwick’s former players from his first women’s teams to his most recent men’s teams were on hand to celebrate his career.
“It was great to see Dave Randall [our first All-American], NCAA Champion Devin Britton and All-American Mike Knowles here,” Chadwick said. “Then we had a couple of women from our first women’s team. It was a great mix of people here. It was fantastic.”
Chadwick’s list of accomplishments are numerous, but it was the family atmosphere he created that former Chancellor Dr. Robert Khayat, former athletics director Pete Boone and women’s head coach Mark Beyers talked about when describing Chadwick’s legacy.
“That’s the message that the athletics department has been sending the last few years, but 35 years ago, Billy Chadwick was doing that already, creating that family atmosphere with the tennis teams,” Beyers said. “The current and former players appreciate how much Billy and Julie care.”
Britton became the youngest NCAA Singles Champion in the history of men’s tennis, and credits much of his success to Chadwick and the family environment at Ole Miss.
“It’s special to have played a small part in his success,” Britton said. “He’s one of the legendary coaches in college tennis. I am very proud to be under his list of accomplishments. I wouldn’t have achieved any of it without his guidance and direction.
“It is 100 percent family here. Coach and Julie, his wife, they care so much about each player who comes through here. They make sure to make a connection with each player. They’ve managed to bring in players from all over the world and treat them just like their own kids and make them feel at home in Oxford. Everyone who comes here considers Oxford their second home and that’s in large part to the Chadwick’s.”
After leading the women’s team to a runner-up finish in the SEC Championship in 1982, Chadwick took over the men’s team in 1983. He coached both until 1987, when Jerry Montgomery, his assistant, became the women’s head coach. Then in 1996, Chadwick hired current women’s head coach Mark Beyers to be his assistant men’s coach. There were others, including Jeff Clark who spent four years here and is now the women’s head coach at Chattanooga. For the last eight years, Toby Hansson has worked alongside Chadwick and now takes the reins of the program.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Beyers said. “For the last 19 years we’ve worked together, whether as his assistant or as the head women’s coach. I can remember it like it was yesterday, we were at Bottletree (Bakery) and he offered me the job. Obviously, he’s left a tremendous legacy. It’s something Toby and I can build on. When you have an outstanding tennis program that is nationally recognized it helps with facilities and recruiting. He’s known not just in the United States, but around the world. For some of his former players to be here speaks volumes about what he’s meant to Ole Miss tennis.”
Long after most of the crowd had left, Coach Chadwick and Julie sat in the pavilion above the women’s team room listening to the band play and soaking in the moment.
“It’s been a tremendous labor of love for 35 years,” Chadwick closed. “Anyone that’s ever played here feels part of the Chadwick Family, and that’s a real tribute to Julie and the boys (sons Lyon and Carr). Also, hats off to all the fans through the years, because they are the ones that made the difference.”
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