San Jose State Tennis Great A.B. “Butch” Krikorian (1922-2010)

San Jose State Tennis Great A.B. “Butch” Krikorian (1922-2010)


Courtesy: San Jose State Athletics

Release: 11/15/2010
Butch Krikorian was a national champion-caliber tennis player who turned out San Jose State championship teams.
View largerCourtesy: San Jose State Athletics

Butch Krikorian was a national champion-caliber tennis player who turned out San Jose State championship teams.

A.B. "Butch" Krikorian, the 1952 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) outdoor singles champion playing for San Jose State College and a seven-time United States Tennis Association (USTA) age group singles and doubles titlist, died Saturday, November 13, 2010, in Cupertino, Calif.

Mr. Krikorian, known to his colleagues, players and friends as "Butch," was 88-years old.

A HALL OF FAME COACHING CAREER

A 1996 inductee into the ITA Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in Athens, Ga., Mr. Krikorian was a member of the San Jose State University Sports Hall of Fame and the Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame.

Named the San Jose State tennis coach in 1956, he held the position for 25 seasons before retiring from college coaching in 1980. Ten times, he coached the Spartans to a top-25 finish at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. The 1959 and 1960 teams placed third while the 1975 and 1976 Spartans were seventh and fifth, respectively.

"Butch was a well-known and respected coach. He was a player's coach. What made Butch a great coach was he had the knowledge. He was very low-key. He was a laid-back guy who always had a player's ear and words of wisdom," says John Hubbell, who succeeded Mr. Krikorian as the San Jose State men's tennis coach. "He was always there with words of advice.

"Without him, San Jose State never would have taken a chance on a young guy like me (at the time) to be his successor."

His San Jose State teams were eight-time conference champions - twice (1961 & 1965) in the West Coast Athletic Conference and six times in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (PCAA) between 1971 and 1980. Mr. Krikorian's players won 47 individual PCAA championships.

Whitney Reed, the 1959 NCAA Championships individual champion and 1960 NCAA men's singles runner-up, was his best-known player. Reed, ranked number one in the United States in 1961, Raul Contreras for Mexico, Carlos Kirmayr for Brazil and Gordy Stroud for Canada are Mr. Krikorian protégées to play Davis Cup tennis for their respective countries. Hank Pfister, a Spartan great of the 1970's, was ranked as high as 19th in the world and had professional wins over legends including Arthur Ashe, Jr., Jimmy Connors and Roscoe Tanner.

"Butch was my mentor and weekly golfing buddy for many years. He was my number-one fan and came to 90 percent of our home matches even when we played off campus," says current San Jose State women's tennis coach Anh-Dao Nguyen-Church, now in her 19th season with the Spartans. "Butch has everything to do with me being a coach here (at San Jose State). I am saddened that I won't have my mentor on the bench to watch our matches."


A CHAMPIONSHIP PLAYER FOR YEARS

While he coached the San Jose State men's teams, he remained competitive and won USTA age group championships in the 35, 45 and 50-year old brackets from 1961 through 1974.

"He was a very good player for a very long time," says Stroud, who came to San Jose State as an 18-year old from Vancouver, B.C., and played for Mr. Krikorian on the 1961 through 1963 San Jose State varsity teams. Stroud remembers playing a singles match with the left-handed Mr. Krikorian and "...he beat me bad.

"He was unorthodox. He hit a lot of drop shots, which was different for his time. He was wily (as a player)," Stroud remembers about Mr. Krikorian's playing style.

MORE ON BUTCH

The native of Sanger, Calif., was born on June 13, 1922. A standout high school football, baseball and tennis player, he served his country during World War II and enrolled at San Jose State in 1949.

Mr. Krikorian majored in physical education at San Jose State and earned his bachelor's degree in 1952. He received a master's degree in physical education from his alma mater in 1958.

Besides coaching the San Jose State tennis teams, Mr. Krikorian was the defensive backfield coach for the 1963 through 1966 Spartan football teams.

A sister, Valentine K. Larson, predeceases Mr. Krikorian.

Services for Mr. Krikorian are pending.

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