In the summer of 1966, when Dick Gould was hired as men’s tennis coach at Stanford, the university “tolerated athletic mediocrity,” he wrote in Dick Gould: My 57-Year Stanford Story
. Stanford, with its elite academic tradition, could not excel the same way in sports, he was told.
He didn’t buy it. His alma mater could compete with – and beat – the behemoths of USC and UCLA, which had won 16 of the previous 21 national championships.
It took seven seasons, but in 1973, Stanford defeated USC 33-28 to win its first team national championship. Stanford repeated as team national champions in 1974, and also captured singles and doubles national championships in both years.
In the 24 seasons from 1977 to 2000, Stanford captured 15 more team national titles. They were propelled by some of the game’s all-time greats – John McEnroe, Roscoe Tanner, Sandy Mayer and Bob and Mike Bryan, to name a few. The tennis program’s success mirrored that of Stanford’s entire athletic department, which had only won two team national titles since 1953, yet today sets the standard for excellence in collegiate athletics.
“When I started, it seemed impossible to even think of winning one national championship. I was influenced by football coach John Ralston, who led Stanford to its first Rose Bowl victories in more than 30 years,” Gould wrote. “He taught me a lot. I like to think that maybe we were the two guys who helped change the way of thinking in Stanford Athletics and turned things around.”
But Gould’s legacy at Stanford extends far beyond the trophy case. Gould led the charge to raise $20 million for the Taube Tennis Center, which went from three courts to 17, bleachers to over 2,300 individual stadium seats, a clubhouse, players’ lounge, video center, conference room and more.
“Not one penny was from the department or the university,” he wrote. “I’m really proud that nearly all of the endowment that covers our men’s program was money we also directly raised from donors.”
Until his retirement from coaching in 2004, every senior class at Stanford won at least one team national championship. It was then, after 38 years, that Gould decided it was time to hang it up. He then became Director of Tennis at Stanford until his retirement in January 2019.
Gould became a legend in Palo Alto. He produced 50 All-Americas. Thirteen went on to win Grand Slam championships. Eight became Olympians. Nine players reached the top 15 in ATP world singles rankings; 14 reached the top ten in doubles. He also authored the book Tennis, Anyone? in 1969.
Gould has been a USPTA member for 38 years and was awarded the USPTA Northern California Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and the USTA Northern California Diversity Icon Award in 2008. Gould, now 81, lives in Palo Alto with his wife Anne.