Tennis to Induct Four into Robert Purnell Wildcat Hall of Fame

July 5, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- University of Kentucky men’s tennis head coach Dennis Emery, in conjunction with the University of Kentucky tennis alumni chair Richard E. Vimont, has announced that two former coaches and two former players will be inducted into the Robert Purnell Wildcat Tennis Hall of Fame, including longtime head coach Dr. H.H. Downing.

Joining Downing in the induction ceremony this summer will be longtime Emery assistant coach Don Carbone and former star players Larry Roberts (1964-66) and Scott Smith (1974-76, 78).  All four members will be inducted during the $100,000 Fifth-Third Bank Tennis Championships held at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex this July. The induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, July 23.

Downing enters the hall of fame as the second-winningest coach in the history of Kentucky tennis with a 174-110-6 record during his 30 years with the Wildcats. After John J. Tigert started the program in 1916, the program went without a team due to World War I until Downing started the program back in 1922. Downing coached UK from 1922-43 and 1945-46 before turning over the reins of the program in 1947. UK did not have a team in 1944 due to World War II. Downing took over the program again in 1952 and coached until 1957 until he officially retired. Downing’s 30 years as a head coach at Kentucky ranks him second all-time with men’s basketball head coach Adolph Rupp as the longest tenured head coach in UK history. For his efforts to the UK program, Downing has been named the “Father of Kentucky Tennis.”

“Dr. Downing was not named the ‘Father of Kentucky Tennis’ for any reason other than the fact that he is the guy that really got it going here over a long period of time,” Emery said. “He worked tirelessly in all levels of tennis, meaning he hosted tournaments and worked tournaments around the state in order to generate enthusiasm and interest in the game of tennis in the state of Kentucky. He was one of the most successful coaches in the history of Kentucky tennis, not just at the university, but in the entire state.”

Carbone, an assistant coach under Emery for 13 years, guided Kentucky to an impressive 253-145 record during his time with the men’s program. In fact, in 12 of the 13 years Carbone was an assistant coach, Kentucky had a winning season, including setting a then-school record for wins with 24 in 1984 and tying the record again in 1992. On top of coaching 16 All-Americans at Kentucky, Carbone was also an assistant coach on UK’s only Southeastern Conference championship team in 1992. Carbone had two different stints as the women’s head coach while at Kentucky, guiding the team from 1983-84 and in 1996. His teams earned a 40-40 record in those three years, including winning records in 1983 and 1984. Since leaving the program, Carbone became a leading pro in the state and part owner of the Lexington Tennis Club.

“Don was our assistant coach during some of our best years in program history,” Emery said. “He was a great strategic and technical coach and he had a long and varied career as both the men’s assistant and women’s head coach. Much of our success during those years was because of Don’s hard work.”

Roberts was a successful four-year player with the Wildcats, lettering in 1963 and 1965-67. During his time with the Wildcats, Roberts became the first player in school history to play No. 1 singles in every year of eligibility, including a successful sophomore season where he went 14-3 to lead the team to an 11-8 record. Kentucky earned its best season during Roberts’ senior year when the Wildcats went 14-4 to tie the school record for wins in a season. After his undergrad was complete in 1967, he started law school, where he worked for two seasons as the graduate assistant coach under Richard E. Vimont in 1968-69. Roberts’ professional achievements include serving as the first full-time Commonwealth Attorney in the state of Kentucky and serving two different stints as the Fayette County Attorney. Roberts also held a very successful private practice in Lexington and serves as a motivational speaker around the nation.

“Larry is the model student-athlete and professional that we hope to produce here at the University of Kentucky,” Emery said. “He was very successful on the court during his time here and he used his experiences and education to become an extremely successful professional. He is a great example for all of our athletes here at Kentucky, on how you can successfully impact our local community and the nation.”

During Smith’s time at UK he was largely considered one of, if not the best, tennis player in Kentucky history. Smith began his career at Kentucky in 1973, earning four letters as a Wildcat. He took a redshirt season in 1976 before finishing off his eligibility in 1977. Smith was a mainstay at the No. 1 singles position all four years and won more than 70 percent of his singles and doubles matches. The two-year team captain was considered the ultimate team player, leading the Wildcats to their first-ever top-20 national ranking in 1977. Behind Smith’s play, the Wildcats earned 20 wins or more in three of his four seasons, including a then-school record for wins in 1974 with 22.

“Scott Smith was the best player, during his time, that had ever been recruited to play at the University of Kentucky,” Emery said. “He was one of the top juniors in the country and he really elevated the level of the program to more of a national scope from the first day he walked on campus.”