USPTA National Coach of the Year (2007)
Michael Center has maintained the Longhorns' standing among the elite collegiate tennis teams in the nation in his 12 seasons at the helm of the Texas men's tennis program. Center, the 2007 U.S. Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) National College Coach of the Year, has instilled in his players a strong work ethic and competitive spirit that have resulted in both team success and individual accolades.
Center holds a 244-87 (.737) overall record and a 55-23 (.705) mark in Big 12 Conference play in his 12 seasons in Austin. Center has led the Longhorns to the NCAA semifinals or better in three of the last seven seasons, and Texas has made NCAA Championships appearances in each of Center's 12 seasons.
UT made its first NCAA finals appearance in 2008, advanced to the NCAA semifinals in 2006 and 2009 and reached the round of 16 on five occasions (2002, `03, '06, '07, `10) while achieving its highest final national ranking (No. 3) in 2006. Additionally, Center has coached 11 All-Americans in Jean Andersen, Callum Beale, Jean Simon, Jose Zarhi, Rodrigo Echagaray, Travis Helgeson, Miguel Reyes Varela, Dimitar Kutrovsky, Ed Corrie, Kellen Damico and Josh Zavala.
Texas finished the 2010 season with a No. 4 national ranking after totaling a 27-3 overall record and a perfect 6-0 mark in Big 12 regular season matches. The Horns reached the NCAA round of 16 for a fifth straight year and won their third Big 12 Championship under Center, who also won his second Big 12 postseason tournament in 2010. The Longhorns also marked UT's first appearance in the semifinals at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship after defeating eventual NCAA Champion USC in the event's quarterfinals. Texas finished the season with nine victories over ITA top-15 opponents.
Dimitar Kutrovsky was named the 2010 Big 12 Conference Co-Player of the Year, and Center was selected as the league's Coach of the Year in a vote conducted by the conference's head tennis coaches. Kutrovsky also was selected as the ITA Texas Region Senior Player of the Year, and Center earned recognition as the ITA Texas Region Coach of the Year. Vasko Mladenov was tabbed as the region's Rookie Player of the Year, and Ed Corrie was the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Award for Leadership & Sportsmanship.
Kutrovsky earned his third consecutive ITA singles All-America honor in 2010 while picking up his first ITA doubles All-America selection alongside classmate Josh Zavala, a first-time All-American. Kutrovsky finished his illustrious career as UT's all-time winningest player with 230 combined singles and doubles wins. Kutrovsky became Texas' first NCAA singles quarterfinalist since 2006 and also reached the round of 16 in the NCAA doubles draw with Zavala. Kutrovsky and Zavala finished the season with a No. 7 ITA doubles ranking. Ed Corrie earned a berth in the NCAA singles draw and finished the season with a No. 23 ITA singles ranking.
Texas reached the NCAA Final Four for a third time under Center during the 2009 season. The Longhorns totaled a 23-7 overall record and reached the finals at the Big 12 Championship for a fourth consecutive campaign. UT opened the NCAA Championships with wins over Sacred Heart and Washington in Austin before upsetting fifth-seeded Tennessee by a 4-3 count in the round of 16 in College Station, Texas.
The Longhorns eliminated fourth-seeded Georgia by a 4-2 margin in the NCAA quarterfinals to secure their second consecutive berth in the NCAA semifinals, where UT fell to eventual NCAA champion USC. Dimitar Kutrovsky earned his second consecutive ITA singles All-America selection after earning a spot on the All-Big 12 singles team.
In 2008, Texas capped Center's finest season with an appearance in the NCAA Championship match, where it fell to Georgia by a 4-2 count to finish as the NCAA runner-up with a 25-6 overall record and mark UT's highest finish at the NCAA Championships. The seventh-seeded Longhorns advanced to the round of 16 in Tulsa, Okla., with first- and second-round wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Rice, respectively, in Austin.
Texas opened play in Tulsa with a decisive 4-0 win over 10th-seeded Florida before meeting second-seeded Ohio State in the quarterfinals. The Longhorns ended the Buckeyes' 24-match winning streak, defeating OSU by a 4-2 count to reach the NCAA semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
Texas met third-seeded UCLA in the NCAA semifinals and scored its first win over the Bruins in nine tries, winning by a 4-2 count to secure the program's first NCAA finals appearance. Texas fell to Georgia in the NCAA title match, 4-2, but the Longhorns truly made their mark at the 2008 NCAA Championships, as UT secured all three doubles spots on the NCAA All-Tournament Team, as well as the sixth spot on the All-Tournament singles team secured by junior Miguel Reyes Varela.
The 2008 Longhorns featured three first-time All-Americans in the aforementioned Kutrovsky, Corrie and Damico. Kutrovsky, who clinched UT's NCAA quarterfinal win over Ohio State and its NCAA semifinal win over UCLA, earned singles All-America status by way of his "9-16" seed in the NCAA Singles Championships and his No. 12 final singles ranking. Corrie and Damico earned doubles All-America status by finishing at No. 8 in the ITA doubles rankings after posting a 17-7 overall record.
Kutrovsky, Corrie and Damico played in the 64-player singles draw at the NCAA Championships, and Corrie and Damico played in the 32-team doubles draw. All three were joined on the All-Big 12 singles team by senior Luis Diaz Barriga, who finished conference play with a perfect 6-0 mark and ended the season with a 31-6 overall singles record. UT also shared the Big 12 Conference regular-season title in 2008 - its second in three seasons - and earned a trip to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle, where the Horns reached the quarterfinals.
In 2007, the Longhorns advanced to the NCAA round of 16 for a second consecutive season, as the defeated Navy and Boise in NCAA first- and second-round matches in Austin. UT's season came to an end at 20-9 with a 4-3 loss to N.C. State in the round of 16 in Athens, Ga.
Dimitar Kutrovsky earned a berth in the 64-player singles draw, and Josh Zavala joined Kutrovsky in the 32-team doubles draw at the NCAA Championships. Kutrovsky earned All-Big 12 singles accolades in addition to doubles honors alongside Zavala. Junior Luis Diaz Barriga also earned an All-Big 12 singles selection after totaling a 6-0 mark in league play.
The 2006 campaign marked one of the most successful seasons for Center at Texas. The Longhorns finished the season with a 26-4 finish and the program's second appearance in the NCAA Final Four. Texas knocked off Tennessee Tech and Rice during the NCAA Regional at Austin before defeating 14th-seeded Mississippi and sixth-seeded Ohio State in the NCAA Championships at Stanford. Eventual NCAA champion Pepperdine eliminated the Longhorns in the national semifinals. Texas' 26 victories marked the highest single-season win total in Center's 15 years as a head coach and the most wins for a Longhorn team since 1997.
Additionally, UT claimed a share of the Big 12 Conference regular-season championship and knocked off Baylor in Waco to capture the Big 12 tournament title. Center was named the ITA South Central Region Coach of the Year and shared Big 12 Coach of the Year honors with Colorado's Sam Winterbotham. Sophomore Travis Helgeson earned his second singles All-America honor in as many seasons, while senior Callum Beale garnered his first singles All-America accolade.
Beale added a doubles All-America selection with freshman Miguel Reyes Varela, as the duo advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA doubles championships. In addition, the Big 12 Conference selected Helgeson as the league's Player of the Year, while senior Roger Gubser, Beale and Reyes Varela were named to the All-Big 12 team.
In 2003, Center marked the school's 12th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance with the Horns' second-consecutive berth in the NCAA round of 16. After defeating St. Bonaventure and Rice in the NCAA regional, Texas fell to Tennessee in College Station, Texas after posting a 19-7 regular-season mark.
Center first took the Longhorns to the NCAA round of 16 during his second season in 2002, as Texas totaled a 23-4 mark. NCAA regional victories over UTSA and Virginia Commonwealth preceded a round-of-16 loss to Tennessee. Three of Center's players - Jean Simon, Rodrigo Echagaray and Jose Zarhi - were tabbed All-Americans, while Simon became the first Texas player ever to be honored twice as the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year.
Center joined his star player on the award stand by being selected as the Big 12 Conference Co-Coach of the Year after leading his team to a 6-1 mark in conference and a berth in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament. This recognition followed just one year after Center compiled an unmatched debut record of 18-6 (.750) in the Big 12, which was the best-ever start for a first-year coach since the formation of the Big 12 Conference in 1997.
Center became only the fourth men's tennis coach in Texas Tennis history when he was hired on July 25, 2000. Center took over the reigns of the program following the legendary Dave Snyder, who retired after 28 years on July 5, 2000. Since Center joined the Texas family, he has continued to run the men's tennis program with the same class and integrity that was instilled upon it by Snyder, Wilmer Allison and Dr. D.A. Penick.
Taking over for a legend was nothing new for Center. When Center was hired at TCU in 1998, he replaced an icon in Fort Worth, Texas, named Tut Bartzen, who had led the Horned Frogs program for 25 years.
During Center's two seasons at TCU, he guided the Horned Frogs to an overall dual-match record of 36-12 (.750). In his first year (1998-99), TCU registered a 14-7 mark, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championships and finished the season ranked No. 22.
In 2000, Center helped TCU to one of its finest seasons in school history, as the Horned Frogs posted a 22-5 dual-match record, won the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) regular season and tournament titles and advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals before falling to eventual National Champion Stanford. TCU would finish the season ranked No. 9 in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national poll. For his efforts, Center earned WAC Coach of the Year honors.
Prior to arriving at Texas, Center had earned conference coach of the year honors in four out of his last five seasons as a head coach (2000 WAC, 1994-96 Big Eight). During his head coaching stints at TCU and Kansas, Center also led his squads to five straight NCAA tourney appearances.
Before taking over the TCU program, Center spent two years in the business world as a stockbroker and served as a volunteer assistant coach at Stanford (1996-98). While working under renowned Stanford coach Dick Gould, the Cardinal claimed back-to-back NCAA team titles in each of those two seasons.
Center then started his collegiate coaching career as the head women's coach at Kansas in 1989. In three seasons with the Kansas women, he led the Jayhawks to a 39-28 dual-match record, including a 16-5 mark in Big Eight competition. In 1991-92, Kansas won the Big Eight Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Although the Jayhawks bowed out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that year, Center was recognized for his efforts by being named the 1992 Big Eight Conference as well as NCAA Central Region Coach of the Year.
Following the 1992 campaign with the Kansas women, Center was named director of tennis for KU and assumed the head coaching duties for the men's program. During the subsequent four years with Center at the helm of the men's squad, the Jayhawks posted an 83-28 dual-match record, including a 29-2 mark in Big Eight play. Kansas also recorded a streak of 25 consecutive league wins under Center's guidance.
In fact, his last three squads at KU posted undefeated league campaigns, claimed Big Eight Conference team titles each year and advanced to the NCAA Championships in each of those three seasons. For these successes with the Kansas men's squad, Center garnered Big Eight and Regional Coach of the Year honors from 1994-96.
Also a tennis standout in college, Center was a four-year letterwinner at Kansas (1983-86). He captured the Big Eight No. 2 singles title during his junior year in 1985, while becoming the first player in school history to win 40 matches in a single season. Center earned his bachelor's degree from KU in broadcast management in 1986 and his master's in athletics administration in 1990.
In September of 2000, he married Allison Holt and together the couple has two children, David Abraham, born June 1, 2002, and Benjamin Holt, born May 27, 2004.