Tom Higgins has retired again.
Seven SCISA state titles in 11 years later, the man affectionately known as “Hig” retired as Porter-Gaud’s boys tennis coach. He broke the news to his team by email after a party held last Sunday for his latest state champions. He didn’t want to take away from the Cyclones’ last championship celebration under his reign.
His first retirement came in 2000 at Eastern Kentucky University where the college team now plays on the Tom Higgins Courts that honor his 29 years as the men’s or women’s tennis coach.
“This has been like a second career,” he said Saturday. “But I’m not done with tennis.”
The 71-year-old former FBI agent is just taking a break from coaching. “I’m just going to resign myself to playing a little and not just feeding balls.”
Higgins said coaching at a top-tier tennis school such as Porter-Gaud isn’t that much different from being a college coach.
“Eastern Kentucky was a different level … Divison I, but the caliber of players I have seen in SCISA at the one and two positions has been Division I quality,” he said, calling attention to graduating No. 1 Thomas Spratt and the exceptional talent on teams such as the last two state runners-up, Hilton Head Prep and Hilton Head Christian.
As for the future, he said, “I have so many clanks in my knees that they hurt all the time. I wore the cartilage out in both knees when I ran a marathon in Washington, D.C, at age 55. If I quit coaching, I can play a little more tennis.”
Higgins plans to continue running his after-school program at Porter-Gaud for younger kids as well as his summer camps. “You can just watch little kids getting better,” he said.
He also will continue helping with the scheduling for the girls team in the fall as well as the boys. In addition to his seven boys state titles, Higgins won two state titles with the girls team before turning that team over to Brian Burke a few years ago.
Burke, who directed the Porter-Gaud girls to a state title in 2011, stepped down as coach. Assistant Charlotte Hartsock will move up to head girls coach, according to Porter-Gaud athletic director Ed Steers.
As for the boys team, Steers said assistant Jonathan Barth has agreed to take over the top job. Barth also is the head tennis professsional at Kiawah Island.
“Teamwise, I’m not leaving the cupboard bare,” Higgins said, pointing to returnees such as No. 2 Seth Pinosky, No. 5 Brant Fenno, No. 6 Foster Moe and doubles ace Cross Tolliver.
What does it mean financially to 190th-ranked Shelby Rogers to have earned a wild card into the May 26-June 9 French Open’s main draw? Just for playing in the first round, the prize money is $27,300. One win ups the prize to $45,500.
The Charleston 20-year-old left for Europe on Wednesday and is playing this weekend in the qualifying tournament for a $50,000 ITF event that starts Monday in Saint-Gaudens, France. As the No. 4 seed, Rogers had a first-round bye.