When the Charlotte 49ers’ men’s tennis program changed coaches four years ago, the changeover could not have been smoother.
In fact, the incoming mail never stopped going to “Coach Boykin.”
That’s because when Billy Boykin was hired as Charlotte’s 16th head coach before the 2011 season, he succeeded his father, Jim Boykin, the 49ers’ coach for the previous 17 years.
In the four years since his retirement, Jim Boykin has stayed on as a volunteer assistant to his son.
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Citing his father’s 40-plus years as a collegiate and high school coach in tennis and basketball, Billy Boykin said he has been fortunate to have such a close confidant and mentor. With exactly 200 career victories, Jim Boykin has the 49ers’ all-time record of most wins for a coach.
“Having a chance to be closer to my family was awesome,” Billy Boykin said of getting hired at Charlotte. “Having a chance to work with my dad on a daily basis is pretty unusual. We have a lot of fun. We are fortunate.”
It is not uncommon for Cornelius resident Billy Boykin to pick up his father, a Davidson resident, and ride in to work together. They share similar philosophies on tennis and sometimes find themselves offering the same bit of advice with the same player.
Jim Boykin arrived at Charlotte in 1993 and earned Atlantic 10 coach of the year honors in 2007. Billy Boykin graduated from North Mecklenburg High School and played collegiate tennis at Davidson.
Charlotte and Davidson played several matches when Billy Boykin was a player with the Wildcats’ men’s tennis team. The Boykins remember the 49ers winning the most of the team matches, but Billy Boykin won most of his singles matches.
Billy Boykin eventually became a college coach, serving as an assistant at Davidson and College of Charleston. In 2009, he was named head coach at University of Richmond (Va.), an Atlantic 10 foe of Charlotte’s. In their only two matchups, the elder Boykin’s teams were victorious.
After the 2010 season, Jim Boykin, now 72, decided to retire. He thought he might have time to devote to his second love, fishing; but it was difficult for him to let go of tennis. When he decided to assist Billy Boykin, 35, Jim realized he had to be more of an adviser.
“Sometimes I would interrupt Billy and give my 2 cents,” Jim Boykin said. “I had to learn to curb that. It’s his program. It’s his guys.”
The 49ers’ record was 7-18 in 2010. That improved slightly to 8-16 in Billy Boykin’s first year.
In 2012, the year Charlotte opened the Halton-Wagner Tennis Complex, the 49ers nearly reversed its record from the previous year, finishing at 15-8. Last year, Charlotte reached the A-10 tournament semifinals and finished 14-10.
Nine of 11 players return from last year’s team. Six of them are juniors, and only one is a senior.
“One of the neat things about our team is we have a lot of parity,” Billy Boykin said. “In that way it’s pretty exciting, because we’re going to be competitive in every spot from No. 1 all the way down to No. 6.”
Also serving as an assistant coach is Jesse Tarr, who has the same position with the Charlotte’s women’s team.
Baseball season opens Feb. 14
The 49ers’ baseball team plays its season opener at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium on Feb. 14 against Youngstown State (Ohio).
Through Feb. 23, Charlotte will play seven of its first eight games at home.
2 on preseason all-conference team
Softball players Chelsea Ingersoll and Jessica Plemmons were named to College Sports Madness’ 2014 Conference USA preseason all-conference second team.
Ingersoll is a senior catcher/infielder from Charlotte. Plemmons is a sophomore outfielder from Lexington.