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UNLV women’s tennis coach to retire: ‘He always wanted the best for us’

Updated April 24, 2024 - 3:02 pm

He thought it would be a quick stop. That he would one day depart for a Pac-12 job. But then Kevin Cory glanced around and paused.

“It was nice being in a conference where you have a chance at being good and winning every year,” he said. “We have nice facilities and good backing from the administration. It didn’t make sense to explore anything else.”

Twenty-five years and more than 400 wins later, Cory is ready to hang up his racket.

He is retiring as UNLV women’s tennis coach at the end of the season. First his team will open Mountain West Tournament play against UNR on Thursday at Darling Tennis Center.

He is the winningest coach in Mountain West history with a 132-38 record (not counting tournament matches). He is also the 46th coach in collegiate women’s tennis history to reach 400 career victories.

Cory’s time at UNLV began with the birth of the Mountain West and led to a tenure that has him standing alongside the school’s all-time great coaches. The legends. He’s one of them. Destined for a first-ballot entry into the school’s Rebel Hall of Fame.

“The first day I got here, he told me it’s going to go real fast and to enjoy all of it,” senior Zita Kovacs said. “He’s not just great on the court but cared for all of us off it and outside of tennis.

“Whenever we needed anything, Kevin was there. He found this perfect part of being our coach and our friend. He always wanted the best for us.”

The coaching side has just grown increasingly more difficult.

Health issues

Cory has balance and mobility issues that have become progressively worse over the years. He has taken his share of falls. He has been a patient at the Cleveland Clinic. He also didn’t travel with the Rebels this season.

“It’s not a retirement of riding off into the sunset,” Cory said. “It has been a struggle. I’m 57 now. At one point in your life you consider yourself a pretty good athlete and now making it to your car at the end of the day is tough. It’s an eye-opener. I literally feel like I’m on a boat when I stand up.

“It could be a lot worse. It’s been an interesting path for sure. A lot of people have it much worse. You can feel sorry for yourself or you can move forward. Time to feel grateful for what you do have.

“They’re not telling me I have to leave. It’s just not fair to the program. I’m lucky that I get to leave on my terms and going out the way I want to.”

Cory will leave the program in fine shape for whoever next sits in his seat. He’s won more titles (12 combined regular-season and tournament championships) than any coach in Mountain West history.

His record in conference tournament play: an eye-popping 42-15.

Cory is not sure all the players grasp that he really is leaving. They see him struggling but it’s not something they talk about. He doesn’t want to make this about himself.

“It’s going to be interesting once practice starts in the fall,” Cory said. “My son asked me what I was going to do and I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ You have that vision of traveling and spending time on the beach and with your family. That’s the goal if I can get a few things figured out. For now, take it a day at a time and be grateful for all you’ve experienced.”

Twenty-five years later, UNLV is the one full of gratitude.

Contact Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @edgraney on X.

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