The men's tennis team opens NCAA Tournament play on Friday against Radford.
Dennis Emery, whose 627 victories ranks him sixth on the active collegiate tennis coaches wins list, is in his 30th year as head coach of the Kentucky men's tennis program.
When Emery began his coaching career at UK, he wanted to build a consistent winner and a national championship-caliber team. Since coming to Lexington he has raised the bar of the program where year-in and year-out, the ultimate goal of the UK tennis program is to compete for the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Championship.
The past two seasons, which have included a run to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, have been full of record-breaking accomplishments for the Wildcats and many historic wins, including breaking the school record for wins both seasons.
In 2011, Kentucky advanced to the finals of the SEC Tournament for only the second time in school history, while also making it to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight for only the fourth time in school history. The trip to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 was the second consecutive for UK, marking the first time in 19 years the Kentucky has been to consecutive Sweet 16s.
All of the success of Emery's 2011 crew led to the Wildcats earning a school record in wins with a 29-9 record, shattering the previous school record - which was 25 wins set by the 2010 team. On the road to the school record, UK defeated Ole Miss for the first time in Oxford, Miss., since the 1988 season and then nearly a month later took down Florida in Gainesville, Fla., for the first time since 1992.
1983: U.S. Junior Davis Cup Team Associate Coach (Now called the U.S. National Team)
1983-Present: Head Coach at the University of Kentucky. Coached 15 players who have been named All-American a total of 29 times in his 27 years at UK.
1984-95: Coached 12-straight UK teams to the Top 25, including nine top-20 finishes and three top-10 finishes.
1985-87: Member of NCAA Tennis Committee and Chair of the Region III Sub-committee.
1985-91: Susan Sloane's personal coach. Sloane improved from No. 133 to No. 18 in the world under Emery's tutelage and finished in the U.S. Top 10 three times. She also earned seeds at Wimbledon and the French Open.
1985-2001: Tournament Director for the USTA/ITA National Collegiate Indoor Team Championships.
1988: Finalist for National Coach of the Year.
1992: Led UK to its only SEC Championship, earning SEC Coach of the Year honors and was a finalist for National Coach of the Year honor for the second time.
1993-95: Member of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Board of Directors.
1995-2005: Founder and Tournament Director for the Fifth-Third Bank Classic -- an ATP Challenger event held in Lexington.
1999: Won his second SEC Coach of the Year award after taking UK squad with a preseason ranking of No. 32 to the NCAA Team Championships in Athens, Ga. The Wildcats finished the season with a No. 12 ranking.
2000: Coached senior Carlos Drada to the NCAA Singles Finals.
2002: Coached UK to a final ITA ranking of No. 8 and the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, where Jesse Witten advanced to the NCAA Singles Finals.
2004: Collected his 400th victory at Kentucky on Mar. 31 against Wright State.
2005: Registered his 500th career victory when UK defeated Murray State at the Hillary J. Boone Tennis complex.
2005: Witten becomes one of 11 four-time men's singles All-Americans in the history of collegiate tennis.
2009: Bruno Agostinelli earned All-America honors, advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Championship.
2010: Kentucky posts a 25-9 record, the most wins in school history, including a historic victory over No. 2 Virginia.
2010: Eric Quigley and Brad Cox become the 16th and 17th All-Americans under the direction of Emery.
2011: Led Kentucky to a 29-9 record, breaking the school record for wins.
2011: Took a talented team to the finals of the SEC Tournament for only the second time in school history. The Wildcats also did well in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight for only the fourth time in school history.
At the end of the year, Kentucky, Emery and associate head coach Cedric Kauffmann had a lot to look back on and be proud of. On top of all the broken records, UK secured its second-straight 20-win season for the first time since 1987-89, finished the season ranked eighth in the nation, had three players finish the season ranked in the ITA rankings, boasted four All-SEC performers and produced another All-America honor for Eric Quigley.
In 2010, Kentucky ended the year No. 12 in the final ITA team rankings, achieving a school record 25 wins and earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament round of 16 for the first time since 2002. UK earned marquee wins over No. 2 Virginia during the regular season as well as a victory over No. 24 Georgia Tech in the NCAA second round. Brad Cox and Quigley both earned All-American honors for UK in 2010 with Quigley earning All-America status in singles and doubles and Cox in doubles.
Emery took the reins of the men's tennis program in 1983, at a time when the Cats had finished last in the SEC two of the previous three seasons and in the top half of the 10-team conference only five times since 1944. But in 1992, only nine years later, Emery led UK to its first SEC regular-season championship and its first SEC tournament title.
Emery has led 22 teams to the NCAA Championships, including four elite eight appearances and three teams to the National Indoor semifinals. In 1992, Emery was named SEC Coach of the Year and was a finalist for National Coach of the Year honors.
When Emery won SEC Coach of the Year honors once again in 1999, he became one of only two coaches at the time to receive the coveted award twice. He also has been the runner-up for National Coach of the Year twice - in 1988 and 1992.
Emery's 540 wins is more than any coach in UK tennis history and his 30 years of guiding the Wildcats ties him with H.H. Downing's 30 years in terms of years coached. But not only is he a legendary tennis coach, Emery has reached iconic status as a UK coach in general, sitting behind only legendary baseball coach Keith Madison and Hall of Fame basketball coach Adolph Rupp in all-time Kentucky wins. Madison secured 725 wins in his 25 years at Kentucky, while Rupp stands alone at 876 wins in 42 years.
Emery and UK began a run in 1987 that has landed them in the NCAA Team Championships in 22 of the last 25 seasons, including quarterfinal appearances in 1988, 1992, 2002 and 2011. Each year since 1987, UK individuals have competed at the highest levels of the national singles and doubles fields as well.
Emery's success has produced numerous milestones throughout his 34-year coaching career. Most recently, Emery led three-time All-American Eric Quigley to the finals of the ITA All-American Championships in the fall of 2010. Quigley's appearance in the finals joined him with former UK greats Jesse Witten, Carlos Drada, Cedric Kauffmann, Greg Van Emburgh and Rich Benson as the only players in Kentucky's rich history of tennis to play in one of the four collegiate grand slam tournaments.
Emery also coached Witten, a former UK standout, to the 2004 NCAA Singles Championship quarterfinals and the 2002 NCAA Singles Championship final. In 2000 Emery coached senior Carlos Drada to the NCAA Championship singles finals, a feat that had never been accomplished by a UK tennis player.
On March 28, 2010, Emery recorded his 500th career dual-match victory as the head coach of the University of Kentucky. The match was an easy 5-2 win for his Cats over South Carolina in front of the home fans at UK's Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. In 2004, on March 31, the Cats defeated Wright State to give Emery his 400th career victory at Kentucky, while on March 22, 2005, Emery recorded his 500th career victory when UK defeated Murray State at the Hillary J. Boone Tennis complex. Emery is one of only nine active coaches in NCAA Division I men's tennis history to top the 550-mark in career victories. Other milestone wins for Emery were his 200th UK victory on February 9, 1993 when the Wildcats upset No. 6 Notre Dame 4-3 in Lexington and his 300th UK win on April 1, 1998 against No. 48 Vanderbilt. In 1994, Emery became one of only 25 active collegiate coaches to compile 300 career wins.
A high point in Emery's career came in 1988, when Emery was Director of Tennis and both UK programs ranked among the nation's top six squads. The only other program at that time to achieve that status was Stanford.
Emery was an accomplished player himself as he earned Honorable Mention All-America honors at Carson-Newman College in 1977. After competing briefly on the satellite tour, Emery began working for Australian legend Harry Hopman.
"Mr. Hopman took a personal interest in my career and in my growth as a coach," Emery said. "I owe a lot of my philosophy as a coach to the time I spent with him."
In 1978, Emery began his collegiate coaching career at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn. Emery took over a mediocre program that had only five players that fall. When he was named head coach, Emery was only 22 years old, which is still the NCAA tennis record for the youngest head coach at a Division I institution.
During his five years at APSU, Emery turned a dormant program into a juggernaut that was undefeated in the Ohio Valley Conference regular season for his last two-and-a-half years. His teams even posted wins over Illinois and SEC schools Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. In 1981, his Governors were ranked No. 31 in the final rankings.
Emery has been a member of the ITA Board of Directors for collegiate tennis and has served as tournament director for the ITA/USTA National Indoor Team Championships. He was chairman of the Region III Tennis Committee from 1985-1987 and has also served as associate coach for the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team.
Emery has played an instrumental role in the fundraising effort for UK's Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Complex. The coach has also served as the tournament director for Lexington's Fifth-Third Bank ATP Challenger, held every summer at the Boone Complex.
Emery is married to the former Brenda Wild of Tampa, Fla. They have three adult children: Merritt, Andrew and Matt. Matt is currently a volunteer assistant coach at Kentucky, while Merritt played SEC tennis at Alabama.
Emery's Coaching Record
34 total seasons
Emery at Kentucky (29)
Emery at Austin Peay(5)
Division I Men - Active Coaches Win List
Division I Men - Active Coaches NCAA Tournament Berths