The Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame Coach Bill Wright, remembered by former players and rival coaches as one of college tennis’ most successful and respected coaches in the game, has died.
Born in 1937, Wright recorded 436 wins during his 27-year coaching career that also included stops at Denver, Colorado State, Illinois, UC-Berkeley and his longest-stint of 19 years with the University of Arizona. Wright once served as vice president of the ITA beginning in 1976.
Inducted into the ITA Hall of Fame the year after he retired from coaching in 2006, Wright was named was named the ITA Region VII Coach of the Year in 2001 and 2004.
“Bill was my coach, mentor and friend,” said Peter Wright, head men’s tennis coach of the Cal Bears. “He touched so many lives through his humor, energy and willingness to explore new ideas. Every day with Bill was filled with his enthusiasm for life, and the unpredictable journey of discovery that he brought us on. His legacy is that the people he interacted with always felt enriched by the experience. I owe much of my growth as a person, player and coach to the impact Bill had on my life.”
His coaching rival at Stanford University, fellow ITA Hall of Famer Dick Gould posted on Facebook simply: “Best ever!”
Former UCLA Bruin Ken Diller: “There wasn’t a nicer coach in college tennis,” and another former Bruin great Buff Farrow added: “Coach Wright was one of the truly good guys in tennis and someone I held in high regard.
Eastern Washington Coach Steve Clark said: “I am heartbroken. Coach was a dear friend and always had a bright and cheery smile every time my teams played him or I saw him at regionals or any event. Just a gem of a man.”
An Atlanta native, Wright graduated in 1960 from Southern Methodist University where he won the Southwest Conference doubles title and placed second in singles in the 1957 singles tournament.
Wright attended law school at Denver University and graduated in 1963. While in Denver, he coached the Denver University men’s tennis team from 1962-64, as well as the United States Junior Cup team, where he served as the coach and the captain. He competed in the US Open five times.
After graduation, Wright coached at Colorado State in 1963 and then made the move to Orange County, Calif., where he practiced law as the deputy district attorney from 1968-72.
In 1972, he began coaching at the University of Illinois before he became the men’s tennis coach at the University of California at Berkeley in 1974. During his tenure with the Golden Bears, Wright led his teams to 12 of their most successful seasons. In 1980, the Golden Bears won the indoor title and finished second in the nation behind Stanford. While at Cal, Wright produced seven All-Americans and posted an overall record of 223-116. In 1978, Wright was named National Coach of the Year and was Pacific-10 Coach of the Year in 1982. He became the vice president of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in 1976.
After 12 years at California, Wright moved to Tucson to take over the head-coaching job at Arizona in 1987.
In 2006, Wright was inducted into the Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame. Wright was the tennis director for the Vail Recreation District for 27 summers, and in 2003, Vail dedicated the Bill Wright Tennis Center at Ford Park in his honor.
Wright coached 12 All-Americans, a Pac-10 singles champion, and a doubles team that reached the quarterfinals at the French and US Opens. He was selected NCAA Coach of the Year in 1978, Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 1981, Region 8 Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2004. He published Aerobic Tennis in 1980, an instruction book emphasizing fitness.