Men’s Tennis: Torricelli’s tradition still lives at NU

Franklin Kao

A lot can happen in 24 years. In Washington, D.C., four different presidents have inhabited the White House. At the Winter and Summer Olympics, more than 2,000 gold medals were awarded.

And at Northwestern, a men’s tennis coach touched hundreds of lives by doing more than just coaching.

Paul Torricelli, who stepped down after last season, guided the Wildcats to a 343-257 record over his 24 years in Evanston.

Torricelli said the bond he created with his players was the “most rewarding” part of his job.

“Just them coming through, you start off scouting them, and then recruiting them, and then signing them, and then coaching them,” he said. “And then they move on and start careers and become husbands and fathers. They become friends for life.”

Some of the people Torricelli had touched over the years came together to honor him Feb. 2, as over 140 former players and friends of the program gathered for his retirement party.

Gary Cohen, a player at NU from 1986 to 1990, said Torricelli was much more than a coach because of the relationships he built beyond the court.

“Paul is the kind of coach that didn’t have a big amount of separation from the players,” Cohen said. “He was a father figure, he was a mentor, he was a friend in ways beyond tennis. He was involved in our personal lives (and) our academic lives. I know that’s why we have the kind of turnout we have here tonight.

“I mean, if he (were) a tennis coach only and we had success on the tennis court I doubt we would have anywhere near this turnout.”

The event included an hour of cocktails, dinner, speeches and a montage video of Torricelli’s career with the Cats.

One of the notable speakers was former player Todd Martin. Martin, NU’s most accomplished tennis player with two Grand Slam finals appearances, spoke about how well Torricelli instilled teamwork within a group of young adults with different personalities.

“He was artful in his ability to assist these young adults, become adults,” Martin said. “It wasn’t an obvious ‘Oh geez, Paul really helped me with this’ or ‘Oh Paul really helped me with that.’ It was, ‘Paul, you did a great job of putting us in the situation to challenge ourselves.'”

“(He) silently, subtlety directed us and guided us in the direction of figuring some things out for ourselves.”

Other speakers included Bob Gundlach, NU’s interim athletic director, Torricelli himself, his daughter, Anna, and new coach Arvid Swan, who was an assistant under Torricelli from 2003 to 2006.

Swan’s speech was dedicated to Torricelli’s willingness to help his assistant coaches succeed. Swan said Torricelli prepared his assistants to become head coaches. Swan has guided the Cats to a 5-4 record in his first year at NU.

“He gave me the first opportunity to get into college coaching,” Swan said. “I love being a college coach, love my job, love working at this university. I think it’s the best university in the United States. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Paul gave me that opportunity and I’m very appreciative for that.”

Torricelli declined to comment on his reasons for leaving NU.

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