Brian Boland: the man for Virginia
Men's Tennis coach loves Charlottesville, developing his players' games
In 1996, Indiana State University hired 24 year-old Brian Boland, an Indiana graduate, to take over a tennis program with historically limited success and no conference titles. Boland went on to make the Indiana State program into a Missouri Valley Conference powerhouse, winning four consecutive conference titles in the process.
Following the 2000-01 season, the four-time Conference Coach of the Year was courted by a Virginia men’s tennis program that had not finished in the top half of the ACC since 1984. Boland was presented with the choice of whether to leave his thriving alma mater to head up a floundering program at Virginia. The choice was clear to Boland when he traveled to Charlottesville for his interview.
“Almost immediately when I stepped foot on Grounds I fell in love with this place,” Boland said. “It has never changed from the day I arrived. I always felt from the first day that I flew into Charlottesville that there was something special about this place.”
As such, Boland left Indiana State with program records in career win percentage, consecutive wins and wins in a season, hoping to turn around the program in Charlottesville. Boland struggled in his first season, going 12-12 and finishing seventh in the ACC. The 2002 season marked the first time since 1998 that a Boland-led squad failed to make the NCAA tournament. Virginia rebounded in the next two seasons, going 44-12 in that period and winning both the ACC regular season and tournament titles for the first time in program history.
Since the first ACC Championship in 2004, the Cavaliers have lost a total of three conference matches. A large part of the early success stemmed from key players such as Treat Huey, Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh. For Boland, bringing those players into the program involved convincing them of Virginia’s potential.
“[Huey, Devvarman and Singh] were going to be part of building something with me,” Boland said. “And just convincing [them] that together that we could be the best in the country and they were going to play a significant role in that process.”
Devvarman appeared in three consecutive NCAA Singles Finals from 2006-2008 and captured the NCAA title in 2007 and 2008. Huey and Devvarman went onto successful professional playing careers, with Devvarman becoming the first Virginia player to eclipse the $1 million mark in career earnings. Huey has appeared in and captured multiple doubles finals on the ATP Tour with fellow former Cavalier Dominic Inglot. The post-collegiate success of players from Boland’s program has been critical in restocking the roster year after year.
“We always had a good base to recruit just because of how successful this program has been since coach Boland has come in,” junior Mitchell Frank said. “The players to come out of here — Somdev [and] Huey — all the guys that [have] success for their professional careers, that’s huge for recruiting. A lot of these juniors, that’s what they are looking for.”
Year after year, Boland has fielded teams filled with players who could have forgone the collegiate track and gone straight to the Tour. But these outstanding players join Virginia, a testament to Boland’s ability to develop professional players.
“[Coach Boland] was very articulate and seemed to have a good grasp on what it took to make the transition onto the pro tour,” Frank said. “It definitely gave me confidence in him and the program.”
Boland attributes the program’s ability to recruit blue chip talent on a consistent basis to the evolution of the professional tennis landscape.
“College tennis has proved over the years that we truly are a great pathway to professional tennis,” Boland said. “At the men’s level, it takes a lot longer to physically and mentally be a top-100 player. The average top-100 player is almost 27 years old. The game has changed over the years, which has allowed us to recruit some of the best juniors in the world. They realize it takes time for them to develop.”
Virginia’s development appeal was bolstered in 2010 with the addition of coach Andres Pedroso, a former USTA Player Development coach. With the help of Pedroso, Boland took the Cavaliers to three straight NCAA Team Finals and clinched the title against UCLA in 2013. Even after 10 straight ACC Championships, an indoor title, and multiple Coach of the Year honors, Boland maintains the same approach to the game as he did when he first took on the task of rebuilding Virginia’s program.
“He has always been intense and that’s not changing,” senior Alex Domijan said. “Every single team we play, he gets us up for. We bring the same focus and intensity to a lower ranked team as we do for a higher ranked team.”