April 26, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After leading the University of Kentucky men’s tennis team to the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championship behind a perfect 11-0 regular-season record, head coach Dennis Emery has been named the SEC Coach of the Year by league coaches, the league office announced Thursday.
“As a guy who has coached in the conference for 30 years, I understand what Dan Mcgill accomplished and I am honored to be associated with something his name is on,” Emery said. “All these awards are great for our program, but I really feel like this is a staff award. Cedric (Kauffmann) and I work very closely everyday on every aspect of our program and it is really a shared award with him. I also want to give a lot of credit to our volunteer assistant coach Matt Emery, who has added a lot to our program this year on the court during the matches.”
This is the third such honor for Emery, who was also named SEC Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1999. Emery and UK senior Eric Quigley, who won the SEC Player of the Year Award, become the 10th coach-player duo to win the award in the same season since the player of the year award was first given out in 1993. The duo is the first to do it since Tennessee’s Sam Winterbotham and John-Patrick Smith in 2010. Emery is now the seventh head coach in league history to win three or more coach of the year honors, joining Bill Potter (Florida), Mcgill (Georgia), Manuel Diaz (Georgia), Andy Jackson (Mississippi State, Florida), Ian Duvenhage (Florida, Vanderbilt) and Billy Chadwick (Ole Miss).
Emery, who is in his 30th season as head coach of the Wildcats, earned the award after leading Kentucky to a banner year in 2012. On top of the school’s first unblemished mark in SEC regular-season play, Emery led Kentucky to its second consecutive and third all-time appearance in the SEC Tournament Finals. UK would eventually fall to No. 4 Georgia in the title match before defeating two quality opponents at the event, taking down No. 13 Ole Miss in the semifinals and No. 43 Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals. This was the third consecutive season UK has earned a first round bye in the event.
“What this reward reflects is the hard work and competitive spirit our players have really put into our program, not just this year but the last two years,” Emery said. “They take a lot of pride in our program and in wearing Kentucky across their chests. That to me is as gratifying as winning coach of the year.”
Under Emery’s direction, Kentucky finished the regular season with a 24-4 record, tying the most regular-season wins in school history and the least amount of regular-season losses in the Emery era. The impressive regular season helped Kentucky post a 20-win season for the third consecutive season and only the 18th time in its 91-year history. The 20-win season was the 13th of Emery’s career, while the legendary coach has now posted three consecutive 20-win seasons three different times during his time at UK. The last time Kentucky posted three straight 20-win seasons was 1987-89.
Currently, the Wildcats rank sixth in the nation, continuing its streak of top-10 rankings to 17 consecutive weeks. Kentucky started the season seventh in the nation while it has moved up to sixth a total of four times this season. UK was also ranked sixth in the nation in 2010, but prior to that season Kentucky had not earned a ranking of sixth or higher since the 2002 campaign. Individually, Emery has led six players to singles rankings this season, including three players currently ranked in the top 25 in singles in No. 3 Eric Quigley, No. 15 Alex Musialek and No. 21 Anthony Rossi. The Wildcats are one of two schools that can claim that honor, joining top-ranked USC. Sophomores Tom Jomby, Panav Jha and Alejandro Gomez have also been ranked in singles a majority of the spring season.
Emery’s Wildcats have an impressive resume against some of the best teams in the nation, sitting 23-5 so far this season against teams currently ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association team rankings, including three wins over top-10 teams. Kentucky was also 11-4 against teams currently ranked in the top 25, while it has won a remarkable total of 31 matches against top-25 teams since the start of the 2009 season.
UK’s best win of the season came against then-No. 3 Georgia in Athens, Ga., marking its first win over a top-three team since it defeated then-No. 2 Virginia in 2010. The win was also Kentucky’s first in Athens, Ga., over the Bulldogs since 1997.
The Wildcats are expected to earn their 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance on May 1 when the NCAA announces the 64-team field for the event. The field will be announced live on NCAA.com at 5:30 p.m. ET. UK has hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament for three consecutive seasons.
For more information on the Kentucky men’s tennis team, follow “UKMensTennis” on Twitter or like “University of Kentucky men’s tennis team” on Facebook.