James Hired As New Redbird Men's Tennis Coach
Redird men's tennis head coach Cris James
Redird men's tennis head coach Cris James

July 26, 2007

NORMAL, Ill. - Illinois State Director of Athletics Sheahon Zenger announced Thursday that Cris James, former assistant coach and player at Purdue University, will be the new Redbird head men's tennis coach, effective immediately. James has extensive tennis experience as a player, coach, and instructor at the junior, collegiate and professional levels.

James replaces Greg Kennett, who coached the Redbirds from 1999-2007. Kennett resigned on June 15 after his wife, Christie, a lawyer with State Farm Insurance, accepted a position in California.

"We are extremely excited to hire Cris James to take over the men's tennis program," Zenger said. "His experience as a player and coach at every level is impressive and he should be able to continue the excellent tradition of Redbird tennis. He will be a great addition to the entire Redbird athletics family."

James spent the last five years as an assistant coach at Purdue University, his alma mater. While at Purdue, James was heavily involved in practice plans, fitness regimens, scheduling, recruiting and match instruction. In 2002, his first year as an assistant at Purdue, he helped guide the Boilermakers to a 13-8 record and a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten Conference. James was integral in the development of Paul Rose, who started his career as a No. 4 singles player and eventually became the Boilermakers' No. 1 and earned All-Big Ten accolades in 2004.

"I am excited about my first opportunity to be a head coach, and I think that Illinois State is a great place for me to be," James said. "This team has done well in the past and I would like to thank Greg Kennett for the work he has done. I do think there is room to build this program and I am excited about that. I am shooting for conference titles and NCAA Tournament bids, both for the team and individuals. Hopefully we can accomplish those things and continue the success in the classroom. The Redbird tennis program has a good relationship with the community and I want to continue that as well."

James was an instructor at the University of Alberta (Canada) Tennis Center from 1996-2002. He worked with players of every skill level, including elite junior and collegiate players, and assisted with all operations of the facility. He also served as a volunteer assistant coach for the University of Alberta tennis program during the 1999-2000 season. James was the head professional at the Riverbend Tennis Club in Alberta during the summer of 2002. While there, he taught group and private lessons, marketed club events and organized tournaments.

As a player, James was a four-year letterwinner for the Boilermakers from 1996-99 and served as a team captain his senior year. He was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and team MVP. James has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in sports management, both from Purdue, and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.

James is also a veteran of the professional tennis circuit. He played on the ATP Tour from 2000-02 and won three doubles tournament titles. James is a well-respected member of the collegiate tennis community and well prepared for his first head coaching position.

"When Cris came in as a part of my first recruiting class, he helped establish Purdue as a nationally ranked program on a consistent basis," said Purdue head coach Tim Madden. "He is one of the toughest competitors we have had in our program, both as a player and an assistant coach. He demands hard work of those around him and his philosophy is centered around daily improvement. It has served him and our team well. I think he is exceptional with the development of athletes, and not just tennis players. He believes in strength and fitness. He is very knowledgeable in biomechanics and knows what it takes to prepare tennis players physically. One of his strengths as a coach is his knowledge of the recruiting landscape, both in the United States and internationally. He works very hard at it. He is anxious to push the ISU program forward."

"I am very excited for Cris," said Washington University in St. Louis head coach Roger Follmer. Follmer was a graduate assistant at Purdue and coached James for three years. "Cris has the best doubles return that I have ever seen in a player. He is very passionate and ready to become a head coach. I am confident he will continue Greg Kennett's trend of success and help the entire Redbird program."

"I think this signals a new era for Redbird tennis and the fans can expect big things from Cris James," said Bob Bayliss, the head tennis coach at Notre Dame. "Cris made a huge impact at Purdue as a freshman and played in the NCAA Individual Tournament during his career. It was easy to see the impact he had on the players when he came back as a coach."