When Brian Boland first stepped on Baylor’s campus with his family as the new men’s tennis head coach, Mitch Mann told Boland’s son, Brendan, that there were two bears on campus. Brendan wasn’t sure what Mann meant. He thought there were two bears casually walking and roaming around the campus.
“He didn’t quite catch on that they were caged up,” Brian said with a grin at his introductory press conference Tuesday morning. “So, we went over there and we looked around campus, and it’s beautiful. We got a look at the bear. It was sleeping. It’s the right place. It’s beautiful. It just feels right.”
While finding two live bears on campus wasn’t really what Brendan expected, Brian didn’t expect he’d get back into college tennis this quickly. The former Virginia men’s tennis head coach — where he spent 16 years and led the Cavaliers to four national championships — resigned from the helm in Charlottesville a year ago to be the head of men’s tennis for USTA Player Development.
He and his wife, Becky, knew they wanted to get back into collegiate tennis. They just didn’t expect the return to come so soon.
“I thought it would be several years from now,” Boland said. “This was unexpected, but it’s the right time. It’s the right place, no doubt about it. (I) can’t wait to get to work.”
Decked out in Baylor polo shirts at their dad’s press conference in front of a packed room on the second floor of the Beauchamp Athletics Nutrition Center (BANC) were Brendan and his older brother, Bryce. Sitting on either side of their brothers were Briana and Brooke, the oldest and youngest of the Boland siblings, respectively. Across the aisle was Becky who, along with her daughters, was sporting some green.
“Becky, when she was getting on the plane, talked to people that have lived here their whole lives, and they love it,” Boland said. “They love Waco, they love the community and they love the Baylor Bears. The welcome has been unbelievable. We’re excited.”
While Boland, along with his family, was able to walk around campus and the facilities, this wasn’t the first time that he’s stepped foot on Baylor’s tennis courts. He was in Waco in 2015 when Virginia won the national title, the Cavaliers’ second of four in five years (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017).
“As far as my experience at Baylor, what can you say, it was a pretty good one,” Boland said. “We won the national championship. We beat Baylor in the semis. And our singles player at Virginia, Ryan Shane, won the NCAA singles championship that year. ... It was a great experience, and certainly the facilities are incredible. I don’t think there’s anything better in the country and nothing compares, both the indoor (Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center) and the outdoor (Hurd Tennis Center). We’re very fortunate to have that.”
Boland takes over for Matt Knoll, who announced his resignation May 13 after leading the team for 22 seasons, compiling a 510-150 record that included the university’s first team national championship in 2004. This past season, the Bears advanced to the NCAA tournament for the 21st-straight season.
And Boland will build off of that, no doubt. His expectation for the program, as he said behind the podium, is simple and matter-of-fact: He wants Baylor tennis to be the best in everything it does. But they’ll become the best by doing everything the right way.
“We want to help these young people grow and become great leaders, great young men and women,” Boland said. “We’re going to do things the right way and win championships and have fun doing it.”