Mike DePalmer, Sr.


Mike DePalmer, Sr.

Class of 2003

Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, 1995

Westport Sportsman Hall of Fame, 1991

 Originally from Westport, Connecticut, Mike DePalmer entered Florida State University on a football scholarship. Sidelined by injury, DePalmer finished his college sports career playing basketball. He completed a degree in education in 1959. In his early career, DePalmer coached high school and junior college sports in several schools in Florida before deciding to coach tennis full-time. Because he had not played tennis as a youth, DePalmer attended seminars and worked with other players to teach himself the game. During this time, he worked at two country clubs and built up a successful clientele of all ages. Catching the attention of Nick Bollitieri, the two founded the DePalmer-Bollitieri Tennis Club in Bradenton, Florida. The Club ran a tennis academy to provide instruction to junior and adult players and later became the widely known IMG Academy. In 1980, the University of Tennessee named DePalmer head coach of its men’s tennis team. Over his 14 seasons with UT, DePalmer produced 20 All-Americans and 25 All-SEC honorees. The team ranked in the top 20 every year and in 1990 achieved an NCAA record 34 consecutive wins. In 1993, DePalmer gave UT its first singles NCAA champion in Chris Woodruff. After retiring from UT in 1994, DePalmer returned to private coaching in Florida and conducted many summer camps and seminars over the next ten years. He retired from coaching for the second time in 2005. A perennial coach of the year, DePalmer’s honors include being named the SEC Coach of the Year in 1986 and 1990, and the Wilson ITCA National Coach of the Year, Regional Coach of the Year, and USPTA Coach of the Year in 1990. Coach DePalmer’s legacy lives on through his former players many of whom continue to serve their communities through tennis at all levels of the game. DePalmer’s impact on the game also extends through his own descendants; his son Mike, Jr. became a two time All-American and is a teaching pro and coach, his son David coached tennis for fifteen years, his son Joey played professional tennis pro for fifteen years, and daughter Michelle DePalmer Williams became an All-American turned pro who taught at Knoxville Racquet Club for thirteen years. Michelle still plays in Husband-Wife National USTA tournaments (no. 1 ranking). Three DePalmer grandchildren also proved to be top ranked players and coaches. Mike DePalmer and his wife, Vickie, married for over 60 years reside in Knoxville, Tennessee.