Under head coach Sam Paul's direction, the University of North Carolina men's tennis program continues to achieve significant milestones as he is now in his third decade of service to the University's athletic program.
With over 300 career victories at Carolina, Paul begins his 20th year as head coach and his 24th season at Carolina overall. A five-time ACC Coach of the Year selection, four-time ITA regional coach of the year and four-time ITA national coach of the year finalist, Paul also begins his 22nd overall year as a collegiate head coach, including two years at Richmond prior to coming to UNC.
Carolina's tradition of excellence in men's tennis dating back to the early stages of the 20th Century, has only continued under Paul, who ranks fourth in regular-season ACC dual match wins all-time and is second in UNC history in that category behind only Don Skakle.
The native of Lancaster, S.C., has continued the winning reputation of UNC men's tennis through his skill as a coach and recruiter since then UNC Athletic Director and current ACC Commissioner John Swofford named him as head coach in April 1993.
Paul is the winningest active coach in the ACC and is the fourth winningest coach in league history with his 324 overall wins and his 122 ACC regular-season victories. Paul achieved his 300th victory on March 20, 2011 when the Tar Heels defeated Wake Forest 4-3 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Paul's players at Carolina have achieved at every level. Since he became an assistant coach at UNC in 1989, the Tar Heels have had players earn first-team All-America honors 19 times.
Many players under Paul's tutelage have gone on to tremendous success on the professional level. Five players tutored by Paul have ascended to the Top 500 of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) singles rankings. Don Johnson, captain of the 1990 ACC championship team and a former UNC assistant coach under Paul, won the 2001 Wimbledon doubles championship and is the former No. 1-ranked doubles player in the world. Paul's former players have reached the semifinals of every Grad Slam event, won 25 ATP events and over 35 Challengers.
During his tenure as the head and assistant coach at North Carolina, the Tar Heels have won seven ACC championships, including the 1990, 1992 and 2002 tournament titles and the 1991, 1992, 1996 and 2004 regular-season championships. The Tar Heels have earned NCAA Tournament bids 20 of the past 21 seasons and the Heels have advanced to the national tournament in 18 of the 19 years in which Paul has been the head coach.
The Tar Heels have been at their best over the past nine seasons. During that time span, UNC has hosted NCAA Tournaments first and second rounds five times, finished the season ranked in the Top 20 nationally seven times and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 three times. During those nine seasons, Carolina has finished in the Top 4 of the ACC regular season standings all but two times. Carolina is 175-65 over the past nine years, a winning percentage of .729. Carolina is 66-27 in ACC regular season matches since the 2003-04 season, a winning rate of .710.
Four times in the last six seasons Carolina has set a school record for ACC regular season wins, garnering nine victories in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012. In 2007, Paul led the Tar Heels to a 20-0 record to start the season, attaining the highest national ranking in school history in the ITA poll at No. 5. Paul's 2006 team tied a school record for most overall wins in a season at 25-5. That tied the school mark, which was also 25-5, set by the 1992 NCAA quarterfinalist team on which Paul served as an assistant.
Individually, Paul has guided a host of Tar Heel players to conference, regional and national accolades. UNC players have earned All-ACC accolades 54 times since his first season as an assistant coach in 1989-90. Over the last nine years, UNC players have earned first-team All-America honors 10 times, the most recent being Jose Hernandez in 2011.
From 2008-10, Carolina was one of only two schools in the country to have a doubles team earn All-America accolades three consecutive years. UNC had back-to-back NCAA Tournament semifinalists in doubles with Taylor Fogleman and Clay Donato going that far in 2009 and Donato teaming up with Stefan Hardy in 2010. In 2006, Raian Luchici and Brad Pomeroy ascended to the No. 1 doubles ranking for the first time in school history.
Twice since the 2000 season, Paul has mentored student-athletes who have won the Patterson Medal as Carolina's outstanding senior student-athlete - Tripp Phillips in 2000 and Nick Monroe in 2004. Prior to those two selections, no Carolina tennis player had won the award in half a century. Phillips returned to campus seven years ago as the assistant coach for the Tar Heels.
Including ACC Tournament play, the 2007 team had the most victories in a single season in school history against ACC opponents with 11 wins. Paul has also coached the Tar Heels to their two best road wins in school history (based on opponent national ranking) when they won at No. 2 Georgia on April 2, 1994 and at No. 3 Texas on March 8, 2011.
Among the awards won by Paul's players have been ITA National Senior Player of the Year, Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship Award, ITA National Player To Watch, ITA Rookie of the Year, ITA Team Sportsmanship Award and ITA Scholar-Athlete Award as well as a host of regional ITA accolades.
Paul has mentored 11 first-team All-Americas in his tenure as head coach since 1993-94 to a total of 14 All-America awards, including a trio of two-time first-team All Americas. David Caldwell (two-time All-America), Brint Morrow, Tripp Phillips, Nick Monroe, Raian Luchici, Brad Pomeroy, Taylor Fogleman (two-time All America), Chris Kearney, Clay Donato (two-time All-America), Stefan Hardy and Jose Hernandez have been so honored by the ITA. Paul also coached Bryan Jones, Chris Mumford, Ronald Thornqvist (two-time All-America) and Daryl Wyatt to first-team All-America honors during his assistant coaching years at Carolina from 1989-93 under Allen Morris.
With the parity present in men's collegiate tennis, Paul's career achievements at North Carolina are significant. He has 324 career victories at UNC and is the ACC's No. 1 winningest active coach with a 122-51 regular season dual match record. The Tar Heels have finished among the top three in the final ACC regular season standings in 18 of the 23 years that Paul has been the assistant or head coach at UNC.
Carolina teams under Paul's tutelage have been distinguished by their sportsmanship and leadership. In 2006, Luchici was named the ITA National Senior Player of the Year. In 2003, Nick Monroe was named the Arthur Ashe Mideast Region Sportsmanship Award winner and a year later Monore received the ITA National Jon Van Nostrand Memorial Award. Paul's 2005 North Carolina team was the first NCAA Division I men's team to receive the inaugural ITA National Team Sportsmanship Award.
While UNC has experienced tremendous success on the court, Tar Heel tennis teams under Coach Paul also excel in the classroom. In the past year, Carolina's men's tennis team posted a 3.344 cumulative grade point average in the spring of 2012 and a 3.295 average in the fall semester. Eight Tar Heels were named to the 2011-12 ACC Academic Honor Roll. UNC had 10 Dean's List selections in the past two semesters.
Paul has tutored four players at North Carolina who have been ranked in the Top 500 in the world in men's singles - Don Johnson (UNC class of '90), David Caldwell (UNC Class of '96), Tripp Phillips (UNC Class of '00) and Nick Monroe (UNC Class of '04).
Paul became the only ACC coach to coach a player ranked No. 1 in the world in the ATP men's doubles rankings when he acted as personal coach for UNC alumnus Don Johnson during his magnificent runs in doubles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open during the late 1990s and early years of the 2000s. Paul coached Johnson to a pair of Grand Slam titles and an appearance on the U.S. Davis Cup Team.
Paul took over the reins as head coach in May 1993 after assisting head coach Allen Morris from 1989-93. In 2002, Paul directed his Tar Heels to a 19-6 dual match record and the ACC Tournament championship, the 25th in school history. Carolina has been invited to the NCAA Tournament 18 of the past 19 seasons while Paul has been head coach in Chapel Hill; only once in Paul's tenure have the Tar Heels failed to make the NCAA Tournament field. Under Paul's guidance, the Tar Heels hosted NCAA regionals in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2012. Paul has repeatedly been rewarded for his coaching ability as he was selected the ACC Coach of the Year in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2007.
After serving as the Director of Tennis and the head men's and women's tennis coaches at the University of Richmond for two years from 1987-89, Paul came to Chapel Hill in September 1989. At the University of Richmond, he won honors as the Colonial Athletic Association's (CAA) Women's Tennis Coach of the Year in both 1988 and 1989.
During Paul's four years as the Carolina assistant, UNC was 82-29 overall in dual matches, 26-3 in ACC regular-season dual matches and 10-2 in ACC Tournament dual matches. In those four years, UNC won ACC Tournament titles in 1990 and 1992, were the ACC Tournament runners-up in 1991 and 1993 while winning the conference's regular-season championships in 1991 and 1992.
During his tenure, the Tar Heels have also had remarkable success in ITA Grand Slam events. In 1993, former UNC men's assistant coach and two-time All-America selection Ronald Thornqvist won the ITA Indoors title in Minneapolis, Minn. In 2004, Geoff Boyd and Brad Pomeroy won the Mideast Region doubles championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the national indoors. Brad Pomeroy and Raian Luchici reached the finals of the 2005 All-American Championships and the semifinals of the 2005 ITA National Indoors and earned the No. 1 collegiate ranking in doubles in the 2006 preseason in the process. The duo ended the season as All-America selections, ranked No. 6 in the country. In the fall of 2008, Clay Donato and Taylor Fogleman reached the semifinals of the All-American Championships.
A 1983 graduate of Presbyterian College with a Bachelor of Science degree in applied psychology, Paul also played tennis for the Blue Hose for two years. He has a 1981 Associate of Arts degree with a concentration in business from Anderson (S.C.) College, where he played tennis as a freshman and sophomore. In 2008, Paul received the Bob Waters Award from Presbyterian College given to distinguished alumni of the institution.
In addition to coaching at Richmond, Paul also served as an assistant coach for the tennis teams at Trinity University for one year and at the University of South Carolina for three years.
Coach Paul married Rebecca Dirksen, a Dartmouth College alumna, on September 12, 2009. Dirksen works in the real estate field and also was an assistant women's tennis coach at UNC for two years in the early 2000s. The couple celebrated the birth of their first child, a daughter, Madeline Jane Paul, on January 22, 2011.