TCU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Chris Del Conte announced the hiring of Lee Taylor Walker as head women’s tennis coach on Tuesday. Walker becomes the 12th head coach in the history of the women’s tennis program.
Walker comes to TCU after spending the last seven seasons as head coach at Memphis, where he made significant improvements to a program that hadn’t posted a winning season until his takeover. The Jackson, Tenn., native led the Lady Tigers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance and win, while also compiling a 39-match home win streak.
“Lee Taylor Walker is a perfect fit for the TCU and Fort Worth communities,” Del Conte said. “Lee has done a remarkable job at Memphis and has truly set the standard for combining excellence on the court and in the classroom.
“Lee is very highly respected on the collegiate tennis scene. After inheriting a Memphis team that was 1-17, he built a program that became a fixture in the national rankings as well as reaching the postseason. He also places a tremendous focus on academics, as his team posted a 3.9 grade-point average this past semester. Lee will be outstanding in continuing the momentum in our women’s tennis program. We’re very excited to welcome Lee and his wife, Erin, to our TCU family!”
The 2013 Wilson/ITA Ohio Valley Region Coach of the Year, Walker had an overall career record of 96-74 at Memphis and guided 10 Lady Tigers to all-conference honors in his seven seasons at the helm. Memphis had unprecedented success under Walker, with the up-and-coming coach leading the team to multiple program firsts.
Some of the many accomplishments that Memphis achieved under Walker include reaching a program-high national ranking of No. 22, defeating the highest ranked opponent in program history (No. 16 Virginia on Feb. 26, 2013), recording two straight seasons of a program-high six wins over ranked opponents and guiding the first-ever singles player in program history to the NCAA Women’s Singles Championships (Courtney Collins, 2012 and 2013).
"It's a real privilege to have this opportunity, and I'm very grateful to Chris Del Conte and (TCU associate athletics director/senior woman administrator) Kim Johnson for the hospitality and kindness they showed me the past few weeks,” Walker said. “TCU is a world class university, sits in a great community and city and has an athletics department that is committed to excellence in every way. There is nothing holding the tennis program back from dreaming big and going for it. I love coaching and building new relationships, and I look forward to doing this at TCU for a long time.
“It is also a real blessing for me to get to work alongside (TCU men’s tennis head coach) David Roditi and the men's team. I had an outstanding relationship with the men's coach at Memphis and this is crucial in building a great experience for both tennis teams. Two teams, one program was our motto and I know it will be the same with David here at TCU. He's a super coach with a great reputation around the country.”
This past season, Walker helped Memphis to a 14-9 record and a final ranking of No. 41 in the country. The Lady Tigers advanced to their third-straight conference tournament semifinal match and nabbed their biggest win of the season with a 4-3 victory at home over No. 26 Pepperdine to continue the squad's school record home win streak to 36 matches. Memphis reached as high as No. 27 in the ITA poll and never dropped below No. 45 during the 2014 season.
After spending five seasons rebuilding the program, all of Walker’s hard work came to fruition in 2013 when he guided the Lady Tigers to the program's first trip to the NCAA Tournament and a win in the first round of postseason play. Memphis entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Tuscaloosa Regional before defeating the No. 2 seed Florida State in dominant fashion, 4-1, to advance to the second round before falling to No. 9 Alabama.
The 18 wins for the 2013 team tied for the fifth-most wins in a single season in program history. The Lady Tigers posted six wins over ranked teams during the season, with three victories over teams in the top 25 (Virginia, Notre Dame and Florida State).
Memphis also received much recognition in Conference USA in 2013, as six Lady Tigers earned C-USA accolades, tying a conference record. Skylar Kuykendall was named C-USA Freshman of the Year, becoming the first Lady Tiger to earn the honor. Walker helped Courtney Collins advance to her second-straight NCAA Singles Championships and a season-ending ranking of No. 50.
Walker has also kept a presence on the national scene in the offseason and was recently selected to coach the USTA Women’s Collegiate National Team for the second-straight season. Walker will travel around the country during the summer coaching some of the top American collegiate players. Under Walker’s guidance in 2013, two former All-Americans won titles during the competitions.
In 2012, Walker guided Collins to become the program's first participant in the NCAA Women's Singles Championships after ending the regular season ranked No. 31. Collins' 2012 ITA Ohio Valley Cissie Leary Award for Sportsmanship and All-C-USA First Team selection highlighted the 17 postseason awards earned by those five athletes and Kelly Gray.
Walker took over the women’s program prior to the 2007 season after spending three seasons as an assistant coach on the men’s team and one as an assistant with the women’s team. The Lady Tigers steadily improved in the rankings and wins column under Walker's direction in his first few seasons and posted their first winning record since 2003 during the 2011-12 season.
Academics has also been a strength for the Lady Tigers under Walker, claiming ITA All-Academic Team honors from 2010-13, NCAA Public Recognition Awards from 2012-14 and Conference USA Sport Academic Awards from 2012-13. From 2008-13, 13 Lady Tigers were named ITA Scholar-Athletes, while Courtney Collins was named the C-USA Women's Tennis Scholar-Athlete in 2012 and 2013.
In 2013, Memphis placed a program-high seven student-athletes on the ITA Scholar-Athlete list for maintaining a 3.5 GPA for the academic year. On the season, the squad posted a 3.695 GPA to claim their second-straight C-USA Sport Academic Award for having the highest GPA among all women's tennis teams in the league. In addition, the team also recorded the highest GPA among all sports in C-USA.
In the spring of 2014, the Lady Tigers recorded a 3.91 GPA, the highest for any Memphis athletics program in school history with all eight student-athletes earning Dean's List honors. It was the first time in Memphis athletics history that an entire team had all earned Dean's List distinction.
“The student-athletes are the center of any great program,” Walker said. “Shaping them into tennis champions is something I very much look forward to, but more importantly, it's about developing high quality character individuals who will be great employees, spouses, parents and alumni. It is about building the total person and launching them out into life ready for anything and everything. I'm passionate about this process and I'm anxious to meet the team and get started."
Walker played for Memphis from 2001-04, teaming with current Memphis assistant coach Ben Stapp in his first season. The duo became the highest-ranked doubles tandem in school history at the time, ranking No. 12 in the country at the end of the 2001 fall season. Walker was also a nationally-ranked singles player, climbing as high as No. 48 in the country. He won 54 singles matches, playing primarily at the No. 1 and 2 positions during his three-year Tigers career and also compiled a 64-29 record in doubles action. He was the school's first Conference USA First Team honoree and also was named to the C-USA Men's Tennis All-Decade Team (1995-2005).
Off the court, Walker was named the recipient of the 2004 ITA/Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership award, which he received as part of U.S. Open festivities.
Walker received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Memphis, graduating in December of 2006 with a Master's Degree in human movement sciences. After graduating, he spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Memphis men's program and spent the 2006-07 season as an assistant for the Lady Tigers prior to being named the head coach of the program in 2007.
Walker is married to former Memphis soccer player Erin May Ferris. He has one brother, Matt, who is a tennis coach in Bradenton, Fla. Walker is the son of Susan and Dr. Danny Walker, who was a quarterback at Vanderbilt and UT Martin.