Entering his third season as the head coach of the George Fox University men’s tennis program in 2011-12, Neal Ninteman has guided the Bruins from the bottom of the pack to the cusp of contending status in the rugged Northwest Conference in only two years.
Ninteman assumed the reins of the Bruin men’s team when Rick Cruz, who had coached both the men’s and women’s team for 11 seasons, decided to cut back on his tennis duties at George Fox to devote more time to his outside business interests, turning the men’s team over to Ninteman but continuing to coach the women’s team.
With a 5-16 overall record in Ninteman’s inaugural season of 2009-10, the Bruins made an immediate improvement of four wins over the previous year. The team also went 2-14 and finished eighth in the Northwest Conference, posting their first conference victories in almost two years. Scott Barnett became the first All-Conference player under the new coach when he was named to the All-NWC Second Team for the second year in a row.
The Bruins raised the bar higher last year by going 6-10 overall, including their first-ever wins over Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran and a stunning upset of conference contender Linfield. Their 5-7 conference record tied them for fifth in the league standings, only one game short of qualifying for the four-team NWC Tournament. Barnett and Preston Mann received honorable mention All-Conference honors, and Barnett was named the NWC Sportsman of the Year.
With almost everyone back and several talented newcomers, Ninteman has even higher expectations for the Bruins in 2011-12, believing that tennis at George Fox can eventually become a premier program and one that will give young players “an experience you want to be a part of. I love to teach the game and I love to motivate; I will be supportive but demanding in terms of a strong work ethic for our players. There is massive potential here, especially if we can get some new tennis facilities that are in the works.”
Ninteman’s tennis pedigree is indeed a storied one. Growing up in the Los Angeles/San Diego area, he was introduced to the game at an early age and was once coached by the legendary Vic Braden. He took tennis lessons alongside Tracy Austin, who went on to become one of the finest players in the history of women’s professional tennis. He himself eventually became a highly-ranked junior in southern California.
Ninteman also played football, basketball, and baseball at Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, then went to California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo as a football player before switching to rugby. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1986, then completed his master’s in civil engineering at Stanford University in 1988.
After two years with his father’s business, Ninteman Construction Company in San Diego, Ninteman joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ with the Athletics in Action basketball program, working and playing for AIA for three years. From 1992-2000, he served with Crusade’s campus ministry program in Russia, where he met his wife Susan, who was also a Crusade staff member.
Ninteman came to George Fox in 2000 and has taught engineering, math, and physics, developing a reputation as a challenging professor who stimulates and draws the best out of his students. In 2007-08, he received the Faculty Achievement Award as Undergraduate Teacher of the Year.
“We are delighted and excited to have someone of Neal’s caliber and leadership in our tennis program,” says George Fox director of athletics Craig Taylor of Ninteman, who first expressed an interest in assisting with the tennis team to him over two years ago. “He has a very rich competitive tennis background, an intensity and a ‘player’s perspective’ that are assets to our program. The fact that the players have immediate on-campus access to him is also be an important piece.”
The Nintemans reside in Sherwood, Ore., and have two boys: Nate, age 12, and Jack, age 10. The family attends Southwest Hills Baptist Church in Tigard, Ore.