Kostin Turned VCU from Doormat to Dominant

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

RICHMOND– Former Virginia Commonwealth University head coach Paul Kostin will be inducted into the Richmond Tennis Hall of Fame on Oct. 24 at the Westwood Club.

VCU hired Kostin in 1990 because the program needed a full-time coach.

Dr. Richard Sander, the Rams’ athletic director at the time, wanted the team to be competitive in the Sun Belt Conference, where VCU resided before switching to the Metro Conference.

Kostin, a native of Sweden, took VCU to the NCAA men’s championship match in 2000. He is the fourth coach in NCAA history to reach 1,000 career wins in 2013.

With a successful background at his alma mater Arkansas-Little Rock, where he spent nine seasons and compiled a 351-109 record, Kostin accepted an offer from Sander to rebuild the VCU program.

Kostin guided the Rams to a 22-5 record his first year. He said he didn’t expect the early success.

“Sometimes, there is a little bit of luck,” said Kostin. “We got some results the first year and people noticed that.”

Sander, now the AD at East Tennessee State, said VCU wanted to focus on improving its tennis.

“Paul seemed like he would be a good fit for us, and I really believed he could get it done,” said Sander.

Using his Swedish connections, Kostin was able to bring in some talented players from his home country, as well as other Europeans.

“It was a good start for me,” said Kostin.

One of the first Swedish players was Fredrik Eliasson, a talented lefty.

“What I think set Paul apart as a tennis coach was his individualized approach for each of his players,” said Eliasson. “I saw a lot of coaches at other schools that had a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

Kostin was criticized for having so many foreign players on his squad.

“I had players from all over the world,” said Kostin. “After I had been here for seven, eight, nine years, everybody else started doing the same thing. Like anything else in life, timing is everything.”

Kostin’s men’s teams have won 17 conference championships and made 20 NCAA appearances. His women’s teams have claimed seven conference titles and made 13 NCAA tournaments since he took over in 2002.

Kostin’s overall record is 1,059-363.

“I think one of the keys to his 25 years of success at VCU is that never once has his success been about him,” said Eliasson. “He has always made sure that it is about his players and their success, on and off the court.”

Kostin, 62, says he plans to coach a few more years before handing over the reins.

“He has this unique ability to give each of the players exactly what they need in order for them to get the best possible performance,” said Sander. “He really cares about his players and tries to help them develop as people. It’s a pretty simple concept but it sure works.”