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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Men's tennis coach to retire after remarkable run

For Alan Dils, the pieces came together and the time felt right. The longtime New Mexico men’s tennis coach has decided to call it a career.

Dils will step aside from the program after 18 years as head coach and retire beginning June 30.

On June 9, UNM announced the retirement, concluding Dils’s 29-year run as a player, assistant coach and head coach at UNM.

“It’s not necessarily a new decision or a new thought,” Dils said. “Really, over the last couple of years, the thought’s been creeping in more and more.”

UNM named Associate Head Coach Bart Scott as the interim head coach for the 2014-15 season.

In retirement, Dils said he wants to spend more time with his family. His children play competitive soccer, he said, and he’d prefer to watch them play in person rather than hearing how they did while he’s on the road at a tennis event.

Dils said he also wants to be there for his brother, Loren, in his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Loren himself was a Lobo assistant for 12 years.

“He’s well over six years battling the disease,” Dils said. “He’s beating a lot of odds, but as it’s taken a toll on his body, he needs more help. I’d like to be there to help him more and do some things with him.”

The players and coaching staff showed the retiring Dils their support when he told them of his decision to step aside, he said. Scott also led the team whenever Dils needed some time to take care of the family, Dils said.

Having a quality associate head coach in Scott in place helped Dils reached the decision to retire now, Dils said. He praised Scott as a great communicator who can still give the players a run for their money on the court.

“He’ll still be the first one to tell you — and I’ll second it — our time in college and college athletics and on this tennis team is the funnest time of our life,” Dils said. “He knows that and gets that going and can relate that to these guys.”

Dils graduated from UNM in 1989 after winning the 1987 Western Athletic Championship doubles title alongside Steve Bickham. Once he finished collegiate playing career, he was an assistant for seven years under Tim Cass.

Since taking over the program in 1998, Dils led the Lobos to Mountain West Conference championships in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009. Even when they haven’t won titles, the Lobos have been in contention. They placed runner-up over the last three seasons in the conference tournament, all to Boise State.

Five Lobos earned All-American honors while Dils was the head coach; another two received the honor when Dils was an assistant coach.

Dils concludes his coaching career with a 260-169 duel record.

Cass, the current senior associate athletic director, praised Dils for his accomplishments. Cass said he recognizes this as an emotional and exciting time for Dils.

“Alan has had a tremendous amount of success in all phases; as a student athlete, as an assistant, as the head coach,” Cass said. “What is really special is the respect that the program and Alan have gotten nationally from coaches across the country for the classy manner in which he has run it.”

Although Dils will no longer coach the Lobos, he said he will still help the team in its fundraising efforts. He’ll also work with the Alumni Lettermen’s Association, the tennis club, and as a liaison for next year’s Mountain West tournament when it is held at UNM next year.

“As a graduate of the University of New Mexico to moving on and changing the next generation of Lobo student-athletes, Alan truly is a Lobo for life,” athletic director Paul Krebs said.

J.R. Oppenheim is the assistant sports editor and web editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at assistantsports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @JROppenheim.