Lynn's most-winning coach

By Sydney Putnam

Last April, Head Tennis Coach Mike Perez achieved 1,000 career wins, becoming one of only eight collegiate tennis coaches to achieve the milestone. 

He also was named Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year for the 13th time. Originally from Kingston, New York, Perez has been with Lynn University since 1989, leading the Fighting Knights tennis teams to seven national championships. 

Perez’s recognition doesn’t end there. His many other accolades include:

  • Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame Coach of the Year  |  2002
  • NAIA National Coach of the Year  |  1993  |  1995 1996
  • ITA Women’s Regional Coach of the Year  |  2006  |  2009
  • ITA Men’s Regional and National Coach of the Year  |  2007

How does it feel to achieve 1,000 career wins?

Getting to 1,000 wins never really enters your mind until it is close. This really just means I have been fortunate to have coached so many tremendous student athletes during my tenure here at Lynn. 

How did you get started with tennis?

I was an athlete my whole life and was mentored in the tennis industry by many high-level coaches. My parents always belonged to a club. So tennis was always part of my life. Getting dropped off in the summer and playing tennis all day with whomever was at the club is a fond and distinct memory. 

How else were you involved with tennis?

I was an active tournament player until 15 when baseball became my only sport. After freshman year playing baseball for Cochise College, I transferred to University of Arizona and stopped playing baseball. I started teaching tennis for the City of Tucson. After graduating from U of A, I took a position with the Gerulaitis International Tennis Center (GITC). 

What brought you to Lynn?

Jeff Bingo from GITC was hired by Lynn to be the head coach, and I was made assistant in 1989. I was the only one who traveled with the team, and I became the head coach in 1990. 

How would you describe your coaching style?

I would think my coaching style is like most coaches’. Focusing on details, intensity, competitiveness and having fun. 

Any memorable mishaps over the years?

With over 26 years and so many traveling logistics, there are always crazy things that happen—mostly, missing passports and buses breaking down. In one event, we got stuck in an elevator before a match and made it just in time to start playing. But, craziness is baked into the process, and we are used to it.

2007 Lynn University Mens Tennis Team
Coach Mike Perez (standing, second from left) with the 2007 national championship men’s tennis team—the program’s first to win the NCAA Division II title

How has the Lynn tennis program matured over the years?

In the early years, student athletes didn’t expect much in terms of equipment, facilities and travel, but the university was always supportive of our needs. Early on, the players used to tape up holes in their shoes when their second pair of the year got a bit old. But, kids were happy, and it was a different era.

What has been your most memorable Lynn tennis experience?

Due to the tremendous student athletes we’ve had over the years, there have been many things I am grateful for. I think winning seven national championships will always be most memorable as far as competition. But, it means the most to me when former tennis student athletes return after years and come by the courts to say hi. 

What about any amusing stories?

We were playing BYU Hawaii in the Atlanta area in late February. It was an outdoor facility, and the temperature was about 38 degrees. Our players played with socks on their hands, cutting out a hole to grip the racket. Two of the warmest climate teams playing in crazy cold conditions. It was fun. 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

That I really don’t watch any sports or have any trophies or pictures of my career in my house. 

If you had the opportunity to give only one piece of advice to everyone in the world (your athletes included), what would it be?

Do no harm, and be kind to all.

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