Coach’s return to city brings ranking to UH

Head coach Patrick Sullivan first recruited sophomore Elena Kordolaimi to Stephen F. Austin. When he got the job as head tennis coach at UH, she transferred to play for Sullivan again.  |  Courtesy of UH Athletics

Head coach Patrick Sullivan first recruited sophomore Elena Kordolaimi to Stephen F. Austin. When he got the job as head tennis coach at UH, she transferred to play for Sullivan again. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

What makes head tennis coach Patrick Sullivan’s decision to come to UH unique is his history with Houston: It became his hometown after moving with his family from Argentina when he was 8 years old; he attended high school in Cypress; and his parents attended the University.

Sullivan has been on campus since the late 1980s early 1990s.

“I grew up going to the Astrodome watching the football teams,” Sullivan said. “My family is still here in town — my parents, my sisters and my brother-in-law. When I had the chance to be closer to them and be at a place that was really special to me, I jumped on it, and I was lucky enough that they gave me the job.”

Sullivan begins his second stint as a head coach after being called one of the top and upcoming coaches in the nation. After defeating his former school, No. 59 Stephen F. Austin, UH ranked 75th by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, which is the program’s first time since March 28, 2006.

Taking a chance

Sullivan is known for his recruiting skills, which have aided in his coaching experiences. His star tennis player, freshman Elena Kordolaimi, who he recruited from Greece while coaching at Stephen F. Austin, transferred to UH when Sullivan was granted the new position.

“My coach was leaving and going to a bigger city and a new school, so I decided to go with him because he helped me a lot,” Kordolaimi said. “The fact that I trust the guy made me want to still play for him.”

Sullivan took a chance on Kordolaimi when he recruited her. A severe ankle injury had her thinking she may never play tennis again. Sullivan offered her a scholarship even though he never saw Kordolaimi play in person.

Kordolaimi said it was her mindset that made Sullivan take a leap of faith.

“I think it was my enthusiasm. That’s what he told me. The fact that I love tennis, I work really hard and enjoy what I’m doing,” Kordolaimi said. “That’s why he took the risk.”

While at SFA, Sullivan and Kordolaimi led the women’s tennis team to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the school’s history and accomplished a 43-10 record during his two-year run.

Past success

You have to work hard so that you deserve it. To deserve to win, you have to be the one that works the hardest and put yourself in the best position and make great choices, Sullivan said.

“I try to really encourage them to make great choices on the court and off the court — tennis-wise and personally. My goal is to have players that are really happy with their experience overall, not just ‘Hey we’ve got a great team’ or ‘We’ve got the best training staff and coaching’ but that they feel like they’re part of a family, they’re treated well on and off the court and that it was a really great life choice to come here,” Sullivan said.

SFA offered Sullivan support from administration, his assistant coach and the athletic director but was limited on its resources and funding — something Houston has been able to suffice. The team made a 3.6 overall GPA by using the acadmic center provided by the University, which Sullivan said was phenomenal and really unprecedented.

Recruiting Texas

“Hopefully in the future, this will become a place and program where Texas kids are excited to come to, but for now, we’re trying to make the program attractive for international kids and Texas kids, too,” Sullivan said. “Even though it’s really hard to compete with the budgets at Texas and Texas A&M, it’s a lot easier if you’re a little bit closer.”

Sullivan has coached for almost 10 years and began as a volunteer assistant at Texas A&M while attending school. He coached at Arkansas multiple times for four or five years, and at SMU.

Sullivan attributes a lot of his success from former bosses Tim Cass from Texas A&M and Michael Hegarty from Arkansas, who Sullivan said were great recruiters, allowing him to absorb their knowledge like a sponge.

“What I learned from both of those guys is that if you treat people well and you give them a great situation, then word spreads, and they tell their friends and so on. A lot of it is just having the initiative to go out there and meet people, to not be scared to travel, to go to places you haven’t been before and to experience some different cultures,” Sullivan said.

Junior Cecilia Frasier said she enjoys playing for Sullivan for the short amount of time he’s been at UH.

“He was enthusiastic about his job, and it looked like it was something that he really wanted to do. As a player, when you know your coach has good intention toward your team and cares, then you feel more enthusiastic about it,” Fraiser said.

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