SACRAMENTO -- Longtime Sacramento State men's tennis head coach Slava Konikov has announced his resignation to become the personal coach for professional tennis player Victoria Azarenka. Current assistant Kevin Kurtz will be elevated to head coach for the Hornets, who kicked off their spring season last week.
Konikov, who spent 12-plus years as the Hornets' head coach, will now coach a player in Azarenka who was the former No. 1 tennis player in the world (2012) and has two Grand Slam singles titles under her belt. It was Konikov that coached Azarenka from 1998-2002, when she was the top-ranked juniors player in the world.
Kurtz, who is also no stranger to the tennis program, began his tenure as Hornet assistant during the 2005-06 season when Konikov was given the Sacramento State head coaching job. Together, the two coaching veterans have helped guide the Hornets to six NCAA Tournament appearances (2007, 2009-13), six Big Sky Conference Tournament crowns (2007, 2009-13), six Big Sky regular season championships (2007-11, 2013), a 169-143 overall record and an 88-18 mark in league play.
Former Hornet Christopher Clayton, who played four years (2014-17) and graduated from Sacramento State last month, will join Kurtz as an assistant on the coaching staff.
"We are grateful and would like to thank Slava for his many years of service, and the commitment to our department and University," Sacramento State Director of Athletics Mark Orr said. "Slava will always be a Hornet, we wish him the very best, and we will certainly keep tabs on him the rest of his career.
"We are excited that Kevin will be our next head coach, and this will be his 13th season as a member of the coaching staff. We believe this will be a seamless transition with Kevin already in place, and I have the utmost confidence in him providing leadership for our program."
Together, Kurtz and Konikov have coached 38 all-conference selections at Sacramento State, including 23 first team selections and six conference MVPs. Konikov is a three-time Big Sky Coach of the Year, and Kurtz was the 2013 ITA Northwest Region Assistant Coach of the Year.
Konikov had been on campus 14 years. His first two seasons came as an assistant with the women's team (2004, 2005) before taking over as men's head coach on Sept. 1, 2005.
"It has been a pleasure working at Sacramento State," Konikov said. "I appreciate the opportunity I have been given at the University, and wish the team nothing but the best in the future."
A 25-year coaching veteran, Kurtz put his fingerprints on an array of duties for the program over the years, including recruiting, on-court coaching, scheduling, travel, budget and equipment.
"I couldn't be more happy for Slava to have the opportunity to coach a player that has been one of the best in the world," Kurtz said. "I've learned a lot from Slava, and am excited for the opportunity to become the new head coach.
"Slava enjoyed a lot of success here, and I will look to continue that success and hopefully take the team to an even higher level. This is a program that has made a number of NCAA Tournament appearances over the years, but my goal is to not only qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but also make a run at the event."
Kurtz has enjoyed coaching success at Sacramento State, and on a number of levels in the Sacramento area. That includes stops as an assistant at American River College (2002-04), and the head varsity coach at both Jesuit High School (1994-05) and Loretto High School (2002-05). He coached his teams to 10 section championships, including eight titles at Jesuit, and two titles at Loretto. In addition, Kurtz was named The Sacramento Bee High School Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2005.
For the first time since the early 2000s, the Hornets will play all of their home matches on campus this year. Sacramento State opened the 2017 season last Friday with a road match at Saint Mary's, and a home matchup vs. Cal Poly on Sunday. The Hornets play again on Friday, Feb. 2, at Minnesota.
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