After spending the summer in a nation-wide search, the Drake men’s tennis team has finally announced the hiring of new head coach Davidson Kozlowski. Kozlowski, who spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will take over an experienced Bulldog squad that is looking to crack the Top-25 in the nation this year.
Kozlowski comes to Drake with a great deal of collegiate and professional tennis experience. The Sarasota, Fla. native comes from a tennis family, as his father was a teaching pro who had Kozlowski on the courts since he could walk. Like every player on the Bulldogs’ roster this year, their new coach played national tournaments from a young age all the way through college.
Kozlowski spent his first two years of college tennis with the Auburn Tigers of the Southeastern Conference, but would transfer after his sophomore season once his sister graduated. He then spent his final two years of college playing at the top singles and doubles positions for the Florida State Seminoles. In fact, it was during his time at Florida State that Kozlowski first became interested in coaching tennis.
“I always liked being a leader on my team, being a vocal leader even as a freshman,” Kozlowski said. “Once I became an upperclassman, I really enjoyed putting the underclassmen under my wing and mentoring them as part of the team.”
A great example of this was during Kozlowski’s senior year at Florida State when the Seminoles were in a tight match against South Florida. Kozlowski, a seasoned veteran at the top singles spot, was paired up with a freshman who was still getting his feet wet in collegiate tennis. The duo was up against one of the Top-15 doubles teams in the nation, but Kozlowski had faith in his partner’s abilities. Kozlowski and his partner went on to upset the nationally ranked duo from South Florida.
“Guiding my freshman teammate through his first big match and seeing his excitement from winning that match was great,” Kozlowski said. “It’s still a great memory that we both share.”
After graduating, Kozlowski spent four years on the Futures and Challenger professional tennis circuits while coaching at a tennis club in Sarasota, a hotbed of high-level tennis competition.
Kozlowski moved to Birmingham, Ala. with his future wife, Jennifer, and he soon was hired on by the UAB Blazers as an assistant coach.
During his tenure with the Blazers, Kozlowski was in charge of many crucial duties for the team, including recruiting, conditioning, assisting with team practices and setting the schedule each season. It was on the scheduling front that Kozlowski really made his mark. At the beginning of his tenure with the Blazers, the team wasn’t facing enough nationally ranked competitors to put it in the national rankings. Kozlowski made enhancing the Blazers’ strength of schedule one of his main priorities.
“I felt good about the contributions I gave to UAB and the state the team was in when I left,” Kozlowski said. “We went from playing three ranked teams at the beginning of my time there to 12 or 15 ranked teams.”
Kozlowski’s scheduling efforts paid off, as last season the Blazers reached a ranking of No. 59 in the nation after posting a 17-9 record, their highest win total since 2000. Kozlowski’s ability to schedule high quality opponents will be crucial for the Bulldogs in their quest to become a consistent nationally ranked team.
After only being on campus for a few days, Kozlowski is already impressed with the Bulldogs squad he will be leading this season.
“What has impressed me the most is the energy that this team has,” Kozlowski said. “It is reminiscent of some of the top SEC and ACC (Atlantic Coastal Conference) teams because they’re very vocal and constantly pushing and demanding the most out of each other.”
He also lauded Drake’s senior leadership and each player’s investment in the program.
“This team has been through a lot of coaching changes, yet nobody has left,” Kozlowski said. “I really feel like I’m joining what these seniors have started.”
With the Drake Fall Invitational just over one week away, Kozlowski’s introduction to head coaching is on the fast track, but if his past experience is any indicator, the Bulldogs should be in for an impressive fall season.