Coaches come and coaches go, but few make a lasting effort to become immersed in their communities. Over the last 20 years Boise State men’s tennis coach Greg Patton has brought his program out of relative obscurity and into the national spotlight.
But most importantly, Patton has committed his career to improving life in the Treasure Valley and developing the most talented athletes into national championship contenders.
The last year has been a fairytale for the positive-minded, spiritual tennis coach. Patton is recognized as being unbelievably eccentric, an unparalleled story teller and driven enough to accomplish anything in his dreams. Since assuming his position with Boise State, he believed Boise would be the perfect place to hold the Davis Cup, which stands as the premier international tennis competition in the world.
With a few strokes of luck, and the assistance of university and city officials, Patton brought the Davis Cup to Boise, featuring the United States and Serbia. The United States lost to Serbia and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, but the tournament landing in Boise opened the door for even larger events and international spectacles. For one week in April, international media outlets paid attention to a little town in western Idaho and the amazing culmination of a great community.
Patton’s efforts to bring the Davis Cup led to his induction into the Idaho Tennis Hall of Fame and prompted Boise Mayor Dave Bieter to award him with the ceremonial Key to the City in June.
Because of his connections with the United States Tennis Association as a national team coach, Patton persuaded friends still in the organization to bring the event to Boise, but to no avail.
“(The Davis Cup) has been on my bucket list since, what seems like, the day I was born,” Patton said, still beaming from the event which took place nearly three months earlier. “I kept banging on that drum, but they didn’t think the market was big enough.”
Patton, along with other city officials, formed a committee in the Chamber of Commerce in order to form a bid for the tournament, but lacking funds and other blocks seemed to kill the idea many years ago.
Then, the stars started to align in 2013. The United States faced Brazil in the first round of the tournament in Jacksonville, Flo. and a victory would mean advancement to another American city. Patton received a phone call from the USTA and, with the help of Taco Bell Arena Executive Director Lisa Cochran, began forming a plan that would be executed in a matter of months.
“Lisa got rid of the road blocks and barriers and made things happen,” Patton said. “She started to smooth the highway out.”
National Team players began hearing about the proposition and Patton’s connection with them through coaching the team during the winter months brought everyone on board to coming to Boise.
In the end, the United States lost, some seats were left vacant, but the tournament as a whole finished perfectly.
“It was like a dream come true and the stars did align. Having Djokavic play was a miracle,” Patton said.
Contrary to what some may think, Boise is far and away a tennis-loving city. Per capita, no other city in the country has more leagues than Boise and the Davis Cup garnered even more support for the game in the community.
Patton’s commitment to the university has translated far beyond the reach of tennis, but he cites Boise as the reason for his successes and the victory that was the Davis Cup.
“Everybody was at the table,” Patton said. “It was exciting to put on an international event and it’s on the scale with the Super Bowl and the Olympics for the players. To play for your country is the greatest thin ever.”
As it stands now, Patton says the USTA is interested in bringing the Fed Cup to Boise, which would feature women’s tennis world No. 1 Serena Williams.
Even with the Davis Cup on his resume, Patton’s career successes stem far deeper than the last year. He holds a 731-338 record over 32 years of coaching – the last 20 years being with the Broncos – and is ranked fifth among active Division I tennis coaches in wins.
He is now the longest tenured coach at Boise State and has won 10 conference championships and 11 conference coach of the year awards. In 1997, when the Broncos came closest to winning a national championship, Patton was awarded NCAA Coach of the Year.
Patton has received numerous other coaching offers from other schools, for more money as well, but has turned away all suitors since becoming an Idahoan. The one thing that Patton still has to win is a national championship and he won’t be satisfied until he’s the first Boise State coach to win a Division I title.
“We have a recruiting class that’s ranked 11th in the nation next year and we’re going in the right direction,” Patton said. “It’s thrilling. I can’t die, and nothing can happen, because I’ll ask to come back. I have business left and the biggest thing on my bucket list is to win a national championship.”
Patton now coaches his son, Garrett, who will be entering his junior season with the team this year. He wants to win a national championship, but the opportunity to do it with his son on the roster is unbelievable.
Hanging on Patton’s wall is a team poster from over 10 years ago, and sitting next to the net is Garrett, who now stands at 6-oot-2 and is one of the team’s most talented contributors.
“That would be heaven,” Patton said. “I recruited him one day and said this is where you need to be.”
Patton has certainly had a story-book career, at least how he would tell it, and with Boise as his home winning a national championship is the only thing left for him to win.