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Chris Russell Named Head Men’s Tennis Coach

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Chris Russell, a veteran of the collegiate tennis scene for over 30 years as a Division I student-athlete, assistant coach and head coach, was named the new head coach of the New Mexico Lobos Men’s Tennis program, succeeding Ben Dunbar.  He comes to UNM after a 17-year stint as the top assistant at The University of Washington.

“We are excited to welcome Chris, Allison and his family to The University of New Mexico and the Duke City,” said Director of Athletics Eddie Nuñez. “Chris brings with him tremendous experience as both a successful head coach and assistant, and we look forward to him continuing our championship tradition here at New Mexico.”

Russell takes over a team that has won back-to-back Mountain West titles and advanced to the 2021 NCAA Tournament. He brings with him to the Duke City 14 seasons as a head coach, with five at his alma mater UC Santa Barbara and nine at Oregon.  He is the owner of six conference Coach of the Year awards, including winning Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors in 2000.

“I am so honored and humbled to be given this opportunity to succeed a long lineage of former Lobo Tennis coaches who I have immense respect for,” said Russell. “This is a very special place with a tremendous tennis family of current and former student-athletes.”

Russell added, “I am very grateful to Eddie Nunez and Ed Manzanares, along with some other special people, who have made me feel extremely welcome.”

Over the last 17 seasons, he has served as the associate head coach at Washington.  With the Huskies, he has helped UW to 12 NCAA Tournaments including Sweet Sixteen berths in 2005 and 2006. The Huskies finished the season in the ITA top 30 six times, and in the overall rankings 14 times.  He was the Northwest ITA Assistant Coach of the Year in 2016.

Prior to his time with Washington, he served as the head coach of the Oregon Ducks from 1996-2004, Russell achieved unprecedented success with the Ducks, molding them into a nationally respected program, leading Oregon to NCAA tournament appearances in 1998, 2000, and 2004.  Those were the first three NCAA trips for the Ducks.

Russell was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2000 after guiding the Ducks a second NCAA Tournament in the past three seasons, while mentoring individual All-American Guillermo Carter. In 2004 he watched Sven Swinnen also earn All-America honors as the Ducks again made it to the NCAA Tournament.

He went to Oregon after five years as his alma mater UC Santa Barbara.  With the Gauchos, he coached both the men’s and women’s teams, earning five Big West Coach of the year honors (men’s in 1989, women’s in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994). He also coached three Big West Players of the Year, 14 All-Big West singles players and 10 All-Big West doubles tandems.

Russell, well aware of UNM’s excellent tradition in tennis, is ready to hit the ground running in Albuquerque in advance of the 2021-22 season. “Your Lobos will play for each other and the former Lobo players, who remain closely in tune to this prideful program’s success. Challenging one another to achieve beyond expectations will be a pillar of the program. Health will fuel performance, as we will emphasize wellness in all aspects of their lives.”

Chris and his wife Allison have two children, Kylie and Logan.  Kylie is a redshirt junior on the UNM women’s soccer team.