Dr. Anne Pittman
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) would like to extend its thoughts and sympathy to the friends, family and colleagues of one of the most legendary coaches in the history of women’s college tennis - Dr. Anne Pittman, who passed away this week, after just celebrating her 90th birthday in October.
Dr. Anne Pittman, Arizona State’s women’s tennis coach for 30 years, was a fighter for women’s opportunities in athletics, blazing new trails as a player, coach, educator and national leader in the sport. In 1995, Pittman was selected as one of the charter members — and only coach — into the ITA Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, after her dedicated tennis career began in the 1960s. She was also selected as the Intermountain Conference Coach of the year in 1976 and later received the USTA National Service Award in 1983.
"The Intercollegiate Tennis Association is greatly saddened by the loss of not only a legendary coach but as a true pioneer to both collegiate tennis and women’s athletics”, said David A Benjamin, Executive Director of the ITA. “Her qualities as a tennis coach and educator were unparalleled. Anne served as a role model for all of us, and her legendary qualities and spirit will endure in our memories forever."
Upon her arrival to the university, where intercollegiate competition for her team was practically non-existent, she created, promoted and directed tournament play.
A member of ASU’s Hall of Distinction, Pittman guided ASU to a 337-71 record during her stint as ASU coach from 1954 through 1984. She directed the Sun Devils to three USLTA National Championships (1971, ‘72, ‘74), led the Lady Devils to the program’s most wins in school history (31) in 1976, added four conference titles (1974-76, 1978) and still has the best all-time winning percentage (.826) of any ASU coach.
"Anne was one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. She lived life to the fullest and had a lasting influence over her students and friends", said Millie West, Curator for the Women's Hall of Fame. "Anne was a valuable member of the Women's Hall of Fame Committee and helped me in so many ways as we were establishing the Hall of Fame."
In her final season at ASU, Pittman was named ITA national coach of the year, as voted by her peers. She was previously named the Lady Champion women’s tennis coach of the year in 1975 and ’76.
Current Sun Devil Coach Sheila McInerney, who was on the nominating committee that year, said, “With her credentials, she won hands down. Anne Pittman was truly one of a kind. She was a pioneer for women's athletics and women's equality at the collegiate level. Her dedication and unwavering fortitude have made it possible for women's athletics to prosper at the collegiate level. We all owe Dr. Pittman our gratitude."
Coach McInerney went on to say, "On a personal level Dr. Pittman was first and foremost a coach and teacher. Those who played for Anne or were taught by her recall countless stories that bring a smile to your face. She had the ability to put the fear of God in you but yet you knew she was doing it for your benefit and development. Anne is the teacher that you will never forget!"
In 1973, she founded the Women’s Collegiate Tennis Coaches Association. Later that year, she coached the U.S. Women’s Tennis Team at the World University Games in Moscow, where the team won a bronze in doubles and placed fourth in singles.
In November 1975, she inaugurated the first ever intercollegiate dual mixed team match, played against Brigham Young University. Although the Sun Devils lost by one point, the match wasn’t decided until the very last ball was hit out. Earlier that year, Pittman established the Western Regional Collegiate Team Championship as a warm up to Nationals. Her teams won the tournament in 1975 and ‘76.
ASU was one of the few places in the country where a women’s tennis team had courts reserved for their daily use. Along with an attractive climate, high school coaches and local tennis professionals would steer their players toward ASU. Gradually, she built and developed perennially strong teams with nationally-ranked players. One of her former players and one of the most decorated players of Pittman’s tenure, Margaret (Peggy) Michael, went on to win a Wimbledon Doubles Title in 1974 with Evonne Goolagong, yet another demonstration of Pittman’s leadership and coaching prowess.
During Pittman’s entire tenure, the position as women’s tennis coach was as a volunteer. Toward the end of her career, she lobbied to make it a paid, full-time position, not to have the money for herself, but for a qualified successor. Until her request was granted, she refused to retire. The funding came during the 1983-84 season, at which time Pittman retired. She continued teaching physical education for two more years.
Growing up in Camphill, Ala., Pittman became involved in tennis only because her church had two dirt courts, and her first racquet was a $1.98 Sears & Roebuck special, selected for its colorful trim. As early as eight years old, she’d run to the courts on a weekend morning, line her racquet to save a turn in play, and then climb up a tree and wait.
Pittman earned her bachelor’s in 1940 from the University of Texas. During that time, she and her coach, Sheila O’Gara, successfully sued to play intercollegiate mixed doubles and traveled with the men’s team whenever they could. She added a master’s in education from New York University in 1945 and completed her formal education with a doctorate from Stanford in 1972.
She began as an instructor at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and as a professor, taught physical education at Texas and the University of Northern Colorado before arriving at Arizona State in 1952. In addition to her teaching duties, Pittman taught golf and even served as head of women’s athletics for a time before becoming the head coach of the women’s team in 1984.
Throughout her career, Pittman conducted clinics across the country, creating and promoting intercollegiate competition, as well as tennis generally. She has been published numerous times and was the co-author of the book ‘Dance A While’. She was also the founder, editor and publisher of a Texas square dance magazine from 1947- 51. Anne was a member of dozens of committees, enjoyed golfing and skiing and earned her pilot’s license in 1941.
“Miss Pittman was instrumental in many of our careers and lives. I know she is smiling on the golf course, healthy, and as crusty as ever. She was the first women's coach to be inducted into the ITA Women's Tennis Hall of Fame, but as her bio reads she was the "first" of many things”, said Ann Lebedeff, Co-Chair of the ITA Operating Committee and women’s varsity tennis coach at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges.