UH men’s tennis head coach John Nelson retires after 16 years

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John Nelson

HONOLULU—University of Hawai‘i men’s tennis head coach John Nelson announced his retirement after 16 years at the helm of the Rainbow Warrior tennis program.

“I have been blessed having a career doing what I love to do,” said Nelson. “The best memories are the friends and relationships I’ve made while coaching. The future for UH men’s tennis is very bright. This upcoming team is very talented and should contend for the conference title.”

“We are grateful for what Coach Nelson has done for our men’s tennis program,” Athletics Director David Matlin said. “He’s had an outstanding coaching career and took our program to new heights. We wish him well in his retirement!”

During his tenure at UH, Nelson led the ’Bows to three Western Athletic Conference titles and one Big West Conference regular season crown. He led Hawai‘i to three NCAA Tournaments–which included capturing the program’s first NCAA win, taking down Oklahoma State in the NCAA First Round in 2009. In the 2010 season, the team ascended up the rankings as high as No. 35—a program-record—in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) poll. 

Nelson also helped Andreas Weber become the first Rainbow Warrior to qualify for the 2007 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Singles Championship. Under Nelson’s tutelage, two student-athletes garnered conference Player of the Year honors—Dennis Lajola (WAC) in 2011 and Jonathan Brooklyn (BWC) in 2014. Four Rainbow Warriors earned conference Freshman of the Year honors—including Andre Ilagan this past season. Nelson was named WAC Coach of the Year in 2008 and ‘10. Overall at UH, Nelson coached 41 all-conference players who earned all-league singles honors 29 times with 15 doubles teams earning all-conference accolades.

Overall, during his 37 years coaching at the collegiate level, Nelson amassed 19 conference titles—four at UH (3 WAC, 1 BWC), five at San Diego State, five at Cal State Hayward (DII) and five at UC Davis (DII). He also coached two singles and four doubles national champions along with eight Division I All-Americans and 22 Division II All-Americans.

Nelson began coaching 40 years ago at the high school level while attending graduate school at Stanford University. He then went on to coach three years at the community college level before returning to his alma mater to coaching at the Division II level at Cal State Hayward (now known as Cal State East Bay) from 1983-88, where he helped lead the Pioneers to a Top 10 national ranking every year he was there. At Hayward, he coached two-time small college national singles champion Mauricio Achondo.

Nelson continued his coaching career at UC Davis from 1988-94 and in 11 seasons combined at Hayward and UCD, Nelson earned eight Northern California Athletic Conference Coach of the Year awards, four Regional Coach of the Year honors and in 1992 he was named the NCAA DII National Coach of the Year—all without any athletic scholarships to give. Nelson led Davis to the 1992 NCAA DII National team title. In his five seasons at UCD, Nelson’s teams were ranked in the Top 5 nationally and he coached one singles player (Mark Segesta) and three different doubles teams (Segesta/Dave Allen; Jeff McCann/Steve Summer; Marc Lamonica/Mark Ebner) to national titles.

Nelson then moved up to the Division I level as the head coach at San Diego State, where he captured five conference titles in 10 seasons of competition in the highly regarded Mountain West. He earned ITA Region VII Coach of the Year honors three times and was named the MW Coach of the Year in 2002. While at SDSU, he coached the ITA National Indoors doubles champion (Oliver Maiberger and Ryan Redondo). In 2002, they were ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of the season, but fell in the NCAA finals.

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