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 athletics program.
With 415 career victories at Carolina, Paul begins his 24th year as head coach and his 28th season at Carolina overall in 2016-17. A six-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 26th overall year as a collegiate head coach, including two years at the University of 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 UNC Athletic Director 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 415 overall dual-match wins. His 152 ACC regular-season victories are also the second most in league lore behind only Chuck Kriese's 166 victories. Paul achieved his 400th overall victory at UNC on Feb. 29, 2016 when the Tar Heels defeated Campbell 7-0 at home in Chapel Hill.
Paul’s players at Carolina have achieved at every level of play. Since he became an assistant coach at UNC in 1989, the Tar Heels have had players earn first-team All-America honors 25 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 in 23 of the past 25 seasons and the Heels have advanced to the national tournament in 21 of the 23 years in which Paul has been the head coach.
The Tar Heels have been at their best over the past 13 seasons. During that time span, UNC has hosted NCAA Tournament first and second rounds eight times, finished the season ranked in the Top 20 nationally 10 times and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 five times and to the NCAA quarterfinals in each of the past three years.
Six times in the last 10 seasons Carolina has equalled a school record for ACC regular season wins, garnering nine victories in 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016. In 2007, Paul led the Tar Heels to a 20-0 record to start the season. 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. Carolina would go on to eclipse the school record for dual match wins in a season with a 27-6 mark in 2014 and then with a 28-5 record in 2016.
Individually, Paul has guided a host of Tar Heel players to conference, regional and national accolades. UNC players have earned All-ACC accolades 66 times since his first season as an assistant coach in 1989-90. Over the last 12 years, UNC players have earned first-team All-America honors 16 times, with a nation-leading four players earning honors in 2016.
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 nine years ago as the associate head 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. That total was matched by the 2014 squad. 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 Leadership & Sportsmanship Award, ITA National Player To Watch, ITA National vRookie of the Year, ITA Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award, ITA Team Sportsmanship Award and ITA Scholar-Athlete Award as well as a host of regional ITA accolades.
Paul has mentored 15 first-team All-Americas in his tenure as head coach since 1993-94 to a total of 20 All-America awards, including one, Brayden Schnur, who has earned first-team honors in three consecutive years. 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, Jose Hernandez, Brayden Schnur (three-time All-America), Ronnie Schneider, Robert Kelly and Brett Clark 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 the most overall wins (415) and most ACC dual match victories (152) of any active ACC coach. The Tar Heels have finished among the top three in the final ACC regular season standings in 19 of the 27 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 2015-16, seven Tar Heels were named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll and Ronnie Schneider earned All-ACC Academic honors for the third year in a row.
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.
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, was the ACC Tournament runner-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. In the fall of 2009, Clay Donato won the ITA Carolinas Regional singles title, a feat duplicated by Esben Hess-Olesen in 2012 and Brayden Schnur in 2014. Schnur went on to win the 2014 ITA Indoor Singles national championship, the second Tar Heel in history to do so.
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. On September 26, 2013, they welcomed their second child, Colton Williamson Paul.
Head Coach Sam Paul
415-190 head coaching record at North Carolina
28th overall season at UNC, 24th season as head coach
Presbyterian College (1983, B.S. in Applied Psychology)
• University of South Carolina, Assistant Coach, 1983-86
• Trinity University, Assistant Coach, 1986-87
• University of Richmond, Director of Tennis, Head Men’s and Women’s Tennis Coach, 1987-89
• University of North Carolina, Assistant Coach, 1989-93; Head Coach, 1993-present
• 1996 ACC Coach of the Year
• 1996 ITA Mideast Region Coach of the Year
• 1996 ITA National Coach of the Year Finalist
• 2000 ACC Coach of the Year
• 2000 ITA Mideast Region Coach of the Year
• 2000 ITA National Coach of the Year Finalist
• 2002 ACC Coach of the Year
• 2004 ACC Coach of the Year
• 2004 ITA Mideast Region Coach of the Year
• 2004 ITA National Coach of the Year Finalist
• 2007 ACC Coach of the Year
• 2007 ITA Mideast Region Coach of the Year
• 2007 ITA National Coach of the Year Finalist
• 2014 ACC Coach of the Year
Sam Paul’s Head Coaching Tenure at North Carolina
Year Overall ACC Final ITA Rank NCAA Tournament
1994 16-9 6-2 (t-2nd) t-19th 3rd Round
1995 14-11 6-2 (t-3rd) t-33rd 1st Round
1996 21-5 8-0 (1st) 16th 2nd Round
1997 13-8 5-3 (t-3rd) 36th 1st Round
1998 15-10 6-2 (2nd) 49th 2nd Round
1999 11-14 3-5 (t-5th) 63rd
2000 18-6 6-2 (2nd) 21st 2nd Round
2001 11-9 6-2 (t-2nd) 36th 1st Round
2002 19-6 7-1 (2nd) 26th 1st Round
2003 11-12 3-5 (t-6th) 50th 1st Round
2004 23-5 7-1 (t-1st) 17th 2nd Round
2005 16-11 4-6 (t-6th) 34th 1st Round
2006 25-5 8-3 (t-4th) 12th Round of 16
2007 24-4 9-2 (2nd) 10th 2nd Round
2008 21-6 9-1 (2nd) 13th Round of 16
2009 17-11 4-7 (8th) 32nd 2nd Round
2010 18-7 7-3 (3rd) 20th 2nd Round
2011 16-8 9-2 (t-2nd) 18th 2nd Round
2012 15-8 9-2 (t-2nd) 16th Round of 16
2013 12-13 4-6 (t-7th) 52nd
2014 27-6 9-2 (3rd) 7th Quarterfinals
2015 24-11 8-4 (t-4th) 13th Quarterfinals
2016 28-5 9-3 (t-th) 5th Quarterfinals
Totals 415-190 152-66
|Position:||Head Men's Tennis Coach|