Tennis coach Tom Wynne to make his 30th season at UND his last one

Tom Wynne coaches the UND men's team at Choice Health and Fitness. Photo by UND athletics.

When Tom Wynne began coaching UND's tennis teams in the 1980s, the pay wasn't very good.

But fresh off playing professionally in Europe, Wynne thought it would be fun to go back to his alma mater and be able to hit with college players for a job.

"I enjoyed being with the players, working with them and hitting with them," Wynne said about initially taking the job. "It was a labor of love more than anything."

That part never changed.

With a friendly demeanor and a steady hand, Wynne oversaw virtually every step of the UND tennis program throughout the years -- from the highlights of conference championships to the lowlights of having the programs cut.


He starred at UND as a player in the 1970s. He built the men's and women's programs at the Division-II level in the 1980s. He was the coach when both teams were cut in 1990. He was the head coach when the women's team was revived in 1998 and the men's team in 2012. He oversaw their rise at the Division-I level and the many conference changes from the North Central Conference to the Great West to the Big Sky to the Summit.

But Wynne has decided it will soon be time to turn over the programs to someone else.

Wynne notified his former players in a newsletter Monday night that he will step down at the end of the 2020-21 season, his 30th as head coach at UND.

"I wasn't aware of how many years I had been at UND," Wynne said. "I saw a piece in Fighting Hawk magazine last year that mentioned I had been at UND for 29 years. I thought, you know, let's go 30 and give someone else a shot at it.

"I love what I'm doing. I just felt like 30 years. . . it was time. The coaching profession is about as transient as you can get. If you do well, you move out. If you don't, you get booted out. I never really had that upward mobility in mind. I always considered Grand Forks home. I wanted to see how far we could push the University of North Dakota. It's on stable footing now. Maybe they can get some new blood in there and we'll see if it can go a little farther."

UND has not announced a replacement yet for Wynne, but Wynne endorsed his assistant coach, Kyle Anderson, who has done significant work in recruiting and coaching.

Anderson has been Wynne's assistant since 2014.

"What makes Tom stand out or makes him special is that over the last 30 years, you cannot find one person who has a negative thing to say about their interactions with him," Anderson said. "Every time he gives a lesson, every time he goes on court, he's always very generous with his time, fully engaged and he truly cares. He's someone who has dedicated to his life to people, teaching and tennis. It is something I completely look up to and aspire toward. He's the gold standard when it comes to teaching, tennis and giving back."


Heading into his final season, Wynne has the UND tennis programs in a strong place.

The women's program finished second in the Summit League in 2018-19, while the men's team was on a Division-I, school-record, nine-game winning streak when the coronavirus pandemic ended the 2019-20 season prematurely.

"We're on good footing," Wynne said. "We're in a good conference. We have good competition levels. Our scholarship totals are solid. Our level of play can attract good players. Our facility is amazing. It's a Big Ten facility. I think the university is in a good spot, too. The administration is good to work with -- (athletic director) Bill Chaves and (associate athletic director) Erik Martinson. They don't micromanage you. They let you do what you need to do."

Tom Wynne chats with one of his UND women's tennis players at Center Court Fitness Club in 2003. Photo by UND athletics.

A career spent at UND

Wynne's association with UND started in the 1970s as a player.

As a senior, he led UND to its first NCC title in 42 years. After playing professionally in Europe, Wynne returned to be an assistant coach at UND, then eventually the head coach of both the men's and women's programs.

After the programs were cut in 1990, Wynne revived the women's program and led it to NCC titles in 2003, 2004 and 2008. Then, he brought the team to the Division-I level.


He revived the men's team in 2012-13. Despite not having any scholarships the first few years, Wynne said those are some the years he cherishes, because the players competed well against better-funded teams and because they played for the love of the sport.

"What's most impressive to me is how he was able to find success at all levels," said Ryan McGuigan, UND's captain in 2012-14. "He had programs that transitioned from D-II to D-I, multiple conference changes, built programs from scratch with limited or no scholarships. . . each of those circumstances presented a new set of challenges and he was continuously able to evolve.

"When I played for Tom, our record was bad. There were some built-in excuses for our performance because it was Year 1 and 2 of the new D-I men's program and we had no scholarship money. But Tom would always make comments about how he was worried for his job security. Was his job in imminent danger? My guess was probably not. But he wouldn't allow himself to become complacent for even a second. I loved it."

Grand Forks native Callie Ronkowski, a former all-Big Sky player, said she views Wynne as more of a family member than a coach.

"Tom has been apart of my life since I was 6 years old when he and his twin brother, Tim, taught me to play tennis at Lincoln Park," Ronkowski said. "Even at this young age, from what I had heard from my parents, I knew Tom and Tim to be the 'Tennis Legends of Grand Forks.' Being recruited to play Division-I tennis was unique for me in that Tom, who I had known nearly my entire life, was the one recruiting me to play tennis for my hometown university.

"There is always a special bond between a coach and athlete, but it is unusual for a D-I athlete to have worked with the same coach for that many years on a daily basis. Having had the opportunity to have Tom by my side all the way from the first day I picked up a tennis racquet to my very last competitive match, really meant everything. I will always be grateful for the opportunities that Tom helped to provide to me.

"I know for myself, my UND teammates and the Grant Forks tennis community, he will always be a legend."


Tom Wynne.jpg
Tom Wynne, far left, played for UND before becoming the head coach of the men's and women's teams.

Not done yet

Wynne said his association with the program and the Grand Forks tennis community won't end after the season.

He plans to continue helping out at Choice Health and Fitness, and he hopes to be able to help with the UND programs on a volunteer basis or with fundraising. Having been there when the programs were cut once, Wynne wants to make sure that never happens again.

"I'd like to do stuff with UND tennis," he said. "You want the program to be very successful on the court, off the court and to be problem-free. You want a program that's financially stable. That's something every program wants. Every program wants an endowed program. That's something I'd like to try to help out as best I can."

Anderson said that Wynne has been an ideal representative of UND.

"What makes the University of North Dakota so special is that it's not an anonymous university," Anderson said. "People have a tremendous pride for the university. No one sums that up more than Tom. He's Mr. North Dakota. His blood is kelly green. He's been there the whole way. He's been through everything. He's been a steady influence and a great role model and leader for his entire tenure. He had success as a D-II program and transitioned to D-I.

"It means quite a bit that he's going to be leaving not only having transitioned to D-I, but leaving both programs on great footing. He's been a great captain of the ship the whole way."


Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
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