Future Now Clear

When assistant coach Jeff Clark left Ole Miss after four years in the summer of 2006 for a job in his hometown of Chattanooga, head men's tennis coach Billy Chadwick chose former SMU player and Texas Tech assistant Toby Hansson to take Clark's spot.

Follow SpiritJeff on Twitter

On January 13, 2014, the move paid off for Hansson and for Ole Miss as the native of Sweden was named successor to Chadwick, who will coach the Rebels this spring and retire after 35 years with Ole Miss athletics.

Hansson, an accomplished player for the Mustangs who had helped lift SMU to three Sweet Sixteen appearances in the NCAA Tournament, had also helped the Red Raiders to their best season ever, a Sweet Sixteen finish in 2005, and a final ranking in the Top Ten in the country for Texas Tech.

Ole Miss knew the type assistant coach it was getting in Hansson, just as Hansson knew the type program he was moving into at Ole Miss.

Now Hansson, who waited patiently and worked daily for his opportunity to become a head coach at a top Division I men's program, will lead one of the country's most successful tennis programs. After this season, that is.

Hansson said he's ready to follow the legendary Chadwick, a native Mississippian and hall of fame coach. After working with him for what will be eight seasons after this spring, he knows Ole Miss and the tennis program inside and out.

Mainly that meant absorbing from Chadwick what it means to be a head coach in a national program like Ole Miss.

"So many things," Hansson said of what he had learned from him. "I think the most important thing is that Billy can make the players feel comfortable and create that atmosphere of being in a family. Especially when you have players coming from different countries or out of state, they come here and it's a new place. For them to feel comfortable and at home is one of the biggest keys to success."

But that's not all. Eight years in and Hansson has seen all aspects of a program that has been a model of consistency and prominence. And that starts with Chadwick.

"Just many, many other things when it comes to the preparation of the players for the matches, when it comes to recruiting. Obviously I'm in a good spot here at Ole Miss because of the facilities and the school. It's an outstanding place. Billy has taught me a lot of things, just being a good person and treating people the right way.

"I think (the players) feel that level of trust in Billy, and they really want to do their very, very best every single match they play and practice they have, both for Billy and the team," Hansson continued. "It's just not one thing I've learned from Billy. It's a way of thinking, a way of doing things and handling situations."

Hansson certainly has Chadwick's blessing to take over a program he has navigated for three decades.

"Toby is one of the top young coaches in the country," he said. "We've been very fortunate in that a lot of our success stems directly to him. For him to take over, what you're going to see is we're not even going to have a bump in the road. The program's in great hands."

Chadwick said Hansson's disposition and knowledge fit the program perfectly.

Hansson and Julie Chadwick at the press conference Monday
Joshua McCoy

"You never find anyone who does not like Toby," he said. "He's extremely likable and at the same time he's a good disciplinarian. And he knows tennis. I'm telling, you, he is one of the best tennis minds in the country."

Chadwick was going to retire from coaching at some point. Hansson said he knew that but didn't know when. He didn't dwell on it but tried to be the best assistant coach he could while he was here.

But there had been conversation about it and people had asked him about it from time to time.

"Billy had mentioned there would be a time when he would step down. People had been asking me about it for a couple of years," Hansson said. "I'm really glad he stayed this long. We'll finish this season now. It's going on eight years now with the program. I wouldn't have minded staying another couple of years (as an assistant), because it's just been an amazing journey."

The journey continues. Beginning in June, Hansson will lead it.

"I've gotten some offers from other schools for different jobs," he said. "When this (head coaching opportunity) came up, obviously this is a dream job for me. And I'm just really excited about that. I'm glad to be here."

Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said Hansson is the right choice to move the program into the future.

"Continuity was a key part," Bjork said. "We went through a process where we analyzed Toby. We interviewed him. We talked about recruiting, what we need to do to continue to build the program. He checked the mark on all of them. It's the right decision for the program."

But there is a matter of this season first. It begins this weekend with a tournament at Georgia Tech. It continues next weekend with home matches in the ITA National Team Indoor first and second rounds. Michigan, Illinois, and Clemson provide the opposition at Ole Miss' Gillom Center.

Hansson said he believes the players are focused on making sure Chadwick's final season courtside is special.

"Everybody is getting a little bit of a boost from this," he said. "The players really want to make this a special year. I know they're all excited about that."

So is Toby Hansson, now that the future has been made clear.

OM Spirit Top Stories