After four years at the helm of the Penn men’s tennis program, coach Nik DeVore resigned from the position Friday.
“I’ve been [coaching] for a long time, for 13 years, and the last couple of years, I have actually been thinking about going in a different direction,” he said. “I just thought it was a good time to move on and pursue some other stuff.”
DeVore’s announcement came on the heels of Penn’s third-straight season finishing 1-6 in the Ivy League.
The downtrend was especially marked, given that the Quakers won the Ancient Eight titles in 2006 and 2007 under DeVore’s predecessor, Mark Riley — now at his alma mater, Kalamazoo.
“Yeah, it was disappointing. I’m not going to lie … The Princeton matches were real tough and could have gone our way … but we just didn’t find a way to recover,” DeVore said of his final Ivy season that began with a 4-3 loss to the Tigers.
He spoke similarly about his tenure in general.
“The last few years have been disappointing as far as our Ivy standing. I think the guys definitely laid it all on the line and did the best they could, but we didn’t get the ‘W’s, and I think we were all disappointed about that.”
The losing weighed heavily on the players, including some who had issues with DeVore.
Senior captain Hicham Laalej called together a mid-season meeting to address some of those issues.
“Right before the Ivy season, there started to be a lot of people complaining about the coaching staff,” Laalej said, adding that the complaints dealt with how “a few things were run on the team.”
“The problem was some individuals on the team were too focused on picking on the coaching staff and what’s going on with the team and how things should be changed.”
“Every college team is susceptible to face tough times as the pressure of the competition increases.”
Laalej added that as a team captain, he felt the need to pull together the team and get the guys to focus on the “big picture,” and aim on improving toward an Ivy title.
“Once the Ivy League season is over,” Laalej recalled thinking, “then we can start talking and thinking about how we can change things that are not going well on the team.”
DeVore admitted he had “differences” with some of the players, but wishes them “all the best” going forward.
Likewise, Laalej said he respects DeVore’s decision and told his coach that he wishes him “the best of luck on all his future endeavors.”
And while the team begins to prepare for next season, DeVore will remain with the program in the coming weeks to smooth the transition over to the next coach, for whom the search has already started.
That next coach will inherit a team that could be well-positioned to lift itself out of its recent Ivy season funk. The Quakers will make their competitive debut on the new Lynn and Clay Hamlin Outdoor Tennis Center next fall, a facility DeVore thinks will be “one of the best on the East Coast” and a draw for recruits and the potential next coach.
“I think [the program] can go in a real positive direction,” DeVore said. “I know for a fact that they’re going to attract a lot of good candidates for the [head coaching] job.”