‘Here, we’re really one program’: Prudhomme leads both men’s, women’s GCU tennis teams to success
By Griffin Fabits/Cronkite News |
PHOENIX – How many days did he take off last year? How many days did he truly spend not working? Greg Prudhomme had to stop and think about that.
He tilted his head back, and looked upward, as if the answer might be etched under the brim of his hat.
“I did take a couple days here and there,” he said, finally. “I would say time off is days, not weeks.”
Rest is hard to come by, and days off are few and far between for Prudhomme, the head tennis coach for both the men’s and women’s team at Grand Canyon University. He travels with both teams, practices with both, recruits for both.
It can often be exhausting, he said – especially when one factors in the doctorate degree he completed late last year – but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“(I enjoy) the diversity and having to stay on my toes dealing with the men and the women, so that keeps it really interesting and exciting,” he said before a recent practice.
“You don’t get flat. It’s enjoyable to see the program come together as one big family. Here, we’re really one program.”
Since Prudhomme was hired in 2008, he has led the Grand Canyon program to prominence.
In 2019, he guided the women’s team to the Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship, its third regular-season conference crown in the last five years. And the men’s team has tallied double-digit wins in every season since joining Division I in 2014. The men also captured the WAC Tennis Tournament title last year, which punched the Lopes’ ticket to the national tournament.
Prudhomme was crowned the WAC Coach of the Year for both the men’s and women’s tennis last spring.
Becoming a solid program and maintaining that consistency are two different challenges, and the Lopes’ skipper is grappling to solve the latter.
“Sometimes the chase to success is a little easier than repeating success because you’re the underdog,” he said, “and the expectations aren’t there yet. You’re reaching new milestones.
“When you get there, there’s a couple of things: you’ve got your own internal psyche, that maybe the pressure mounts because it’s, ‘Wow, now that we’ve done it, repeating it could be more challenging than doing it for the first time.’ But, you’re also a target, and that’s the other challenge. You can’t sneak up on anybody anymore.”
Prudhomme is thrilled with the foundation he’s built over the last decade. Apparently, those in the Grand Canyon athletics department are thrilled, too.
“Greg is a great person and leader,” Associate Athletic Director Mark Wilty said via email. “He exemplifies the GCU culture on and off the court while always looking for ways to improve. His positivity is infectious and has been integral to the success of the GCU tennis programs across multiple levels of competition. We are very fortunate and thankful to have Greg lead our tennis programs.”
Tennis has often been a family affair for the Prudhommes. Among the nine players on the women’s roster is his daughter, Autum, a junior. His oldest daughter, Tatum, played for Grand Canyon from 2013-17 and is now a graduate assistant coach.
“There’s bring-a-child-to-work-day at other jobs around the world, but mine is that every day,” Prudhomme said, laughing.
Autum said being on the team her dad coaches, “just brings us closer on another level that I couldn’t have imagined. The whole family is closer now.”
Of course, his daughters were practically born into the sport. Before GCU, Prudhomme, coached at Glendale Community College. He played at Scottsdale Community College, Arizona State and Arizona.
He also coached his wife, Mandy, for two seasons, when she played on the Lopes’ women’s team more than 10 years ago. Mandy and Greg are both certified coaches through the United States Professional Tennis Association.
Prudhomme’s dual role makes him a bit of a rare breed in the world of Division I college tennis. It is uncommon to see one coach run an entire program at sports highest collegiate level. Even those in the Grand Canyon athletic department were initially skeptical.
When the Lopes became a Division I school seven years ago, Prudhomme was informed that he must “separate” the program because the workload of overseeing both teams would be too great of an assignment to handle.
“(They said), ‘You’re coaching two programs and you need to coach one,’ ” he said, recalling those conversations. “ ‘You’re doing a great job so you get to pick which one.”
He was told he would have to choose which team he would coach in a meeting later in the year.
To Prudhomme, who knew exactly what he was getting himself into when he took on both teams beginning in 2013, it was crushing. But, reluctantly, he obliged. He said he’d have his decision by the end of the season.
“So, the season progresses, one of our team wins the conference. We took first and second (in the conference). I was going into this meeting emotional. I didn’t want to walk in the door because I felt like I was going to leave, not with a team but losing a team, losing my players.
“And it wasn’t even brought up,” he said, smiling, still enjoying the news he received. “It was: ‘Great season. Congratulations. Way to go. Keep it up.’ ”
And since then, since the meeting he feared would split his program, there have been no further talk of it.
Prudhomme is a Lope, as both the men’s and women’s coach, and he’s in this for the long run.
Moments before a recent mid-morning practice Prudhomme had to excuse himself as a group of high school players approached the courts.
“I’ll be right back,” he said. He scurried over to introduce himself. There were several international high school students who were taking their unofficial visits, exploring the Grand Canyon campus and their interest in its tennis program.
Even as he’s about to run a practice for two teams on six courts, there was more work to be done.
Prudhomme will have to think about his next day off another time.
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