When Dave Benjamin, the president of the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Assn., called Greg Patton to tell him he'd been named Coach of the Year, the UC Irvine coach either didn't hear him right or couldn't believe his ears . . . or both.
"I told him it was an honor to be nominated," said Patton, who is at Sonoma State in Rohnert Park, Calif. for the U.S. Junior Davis Cup tryouts. "I couldn't believe it. I really didn't expect to win it."
"The three other guys who were nominated (Michigan's Brian Eisner, South Carolina's Kent DeMars and Tennessee's Mike DePalmer) are all older and I have tremendous respect for them . . . they've all taught me a lot.
"When he assured me that I'd been selected the Coach of the Year, I couldn't believe it. It's like surfing in Hawaii on the best day in the world and riding the biggest waves without falling off and having the girl you want to marry on the beach watching every wave and smiling at you."
Patton led UCI to a 25-11 record, the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. title and a berth in the NCAA championships this season. The Anteaters advanced two rounds in the nationals and finished the season ranked 15th in the nation.
Patton this season also was named PCAA Coach of the Year for the fourth time in eight years at UCI.
"Getting recognized by your peers (the Division 1 coaches vote on the award) like this makes you want to go outside and scream, 'Hot diggity damn.' I mean, this means more than your mom calling and saying you're a great coach.
"In fact, this means more to me than winning the lotto."
The only thing Patton would trade for the honor would be an NCAA team championship.
"We came back from the NCAAs feeling like Bambi would after holding his own with King Kong," Patton said. "My guys played the best they could even though we lost the team thing in the second round. I believe if you do the best you can, you should rejoice.
"My main goal, my main dream is to win a national championship, but I came home feeling so good. I'd go to bed at night and start laughing. It was like, 'I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this.' "
Patton, serving as head coach of the boys' Junior Davis Cup team for the third straight summer, will select 10 players for the 18s division and four for the 16s to compete for the national team in international competition this summer.