By Max Delanty
When talking about coaching successes at Ole Miss throughout the years, a name that often comes to mind is Billy Chadwick.
The Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame Ole Miss coach’s long and tenured career could be considered one of hard work and real talent. Starting with the Ole Miss women’s tennis program in 1979, the Jackson native, led the team to the Southeastern Conference finals in 1982.
Chadwick soon after became the men’s tennis coach in 1983.
Before stepping down in 2014, his career could be considered nothing less than extraordinary.
In 15 of his last 21 seasons with men’s tennis, his team finished in the top 10 nationally in NCAA play.
Chadwick said there was something special going on within the team to have that type of sustained success.
“When you have that kind of success year in and year out,” Chadwick said, “a standard is set for the team. It falls back onto unbelievable leadership, set by the upperclassmen year in and year out, passing that leadership on to the younger guys, and what it takes to come together as a team.”
With a team built around this kind of leadership and camaraderie, it becomes clear why such success was always around the Ole Miss tennis family. With players like Devin Britton and so many others, the talent was there.
Britton remains involved in the program as an assistant coach to current head coach Toby Hansson.
“Devin Britton was the youngest player ever to win the (NCAA) Singles Championship,” Chadwick said.
Britton received All-American honors during his one season of Ole Miss tennis when he won collegiate tennis’ top title.
“With that kind of success after playing tennis practically his entire life, there was a lot of pressure for him to go pro,” Chadwick said.
And that’s what he did not long after he won the national championship. Britton went on to play professionally after signing with an agency and later that year played against Roger Federer in a wild card spot in the 2009 U.S. Open.
Britton was one of many talented players and one of the most accomplished under Chadwick. Mahesh Bhupathi won numerous Grand Slam doubles titles as a professional after winning the NCAA Doubles title in 1995 at Ole Miss with partner Ali Hamadeh.
That same year, 1995, the Ole Miss men’s tennis team had its highest final ranking ever with a national runner-up finish to Stanford.
When looking back at such an impressive career of coaching at Ole Miss, some of the matches he remembers fondest were beating in-state rival Mississippi State. Everyone in the SEC, especially in the state of Mississippi, knows how important these rivalry matchups are.
“It is one thing to beat your arch-rivals, but when you are both ranked in the top five nationally, it means so much more to win those. Overall it was an unbelievable rivalry,” Chadwick said.
And there was a time when MSU could not beat Ole Miss for several seasons.
“With a 15 in a row win streak against them (during one stretch), those are some of the matches I am most proud of,” Chadwick said.
Before SEC tennis turned to divisions in 2002 there was a match in Athens, Georgia, that Chadwick remembered as one of his “favorite memories” in his career.
In 1995 the Rebels faced the Georgia men’s tennis team in Athens, where the College Tennis Hall of Fame resides, during the NCAA semifinals. In a match that Chadwick said, “went back and forth all day, and at some point, during the long match there was a rain delay. The packed stadium went downtown Athens to go out that night before coming back to the match that we won at one o’clock in the morning. After complete silence, the fans gave us a standing ovation.”
For the Rebels, that tough-fought match would lead them to the national championship match against Stanford.
During his lengthy career, Chadwick was named USPTA National College Coach of the Year in 2009 and was named SEC Coach of the Year three times.
His Rebel teams won 10 SEC Western Division titles and five overall SEC titles. Individually, Chadwick coached three NCAA Champions, six SEC Champions, 28 All-Americans, 72 All-SEC selections, and 76 NCAA individual qualifiers.
Seven of his players were ranked No. 1 in the nation. His players earned numerous ITA national and regional awards, including Mississippi native Dave Randall winning the prestigious Rafael Osuna National Sportsmanship Award in 1989.
Billy Chadwick had a long and successful career with the Ole Miss family and now spends time with his family on his farm. He also pursues his other passion, the guitar.
“I used to bring my guitar on the road with the team when I was still coaching,” he said.
He’s now in The Chadwick Band with his wife Julie and brother Barney. They play at numerous music events and in Oxford’s own locales like Proud Larry’s, Rafters, and more. The Chadwick Band was set to play in the Double Decker Arts Festival before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.