Under the direction of Derek Mills, the Santa Clara men’s tennis program has grown to new heights. Mills completed his ninth season as the Bronco head men’s tennis coach with the conclusion of the 2016 season, marking his 24th year of coaching at the youth and collegiate levels. Mills guided the Broncos to their first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2012 and he has developed Santa Clara into a highly-ranked team on a national level as well as a perennial threat in the West Coast Conference and Northwest Region.
Mills had an almost entirely freshmen squad at his disposal during the 2016 season. Despite its youth and rigorous schedule, Santa Clara finished with a regular season mark of 10-13 and had a shot at making the WCC Championships during the final weekend of regular season play. Now with 114 career victories at Santa Clara, Mills ranks second all-time in program history for coaching wins, 17 victories shy of Sean Burns who sits atop the list.
Challenging 11 ranked opponents throughout the 2016 campaign, the Broncos were able to pull the upset against No. 66 Fresno State University and push a number of matches to competitive finishes. Five Bronco competitors ended the season with double-digit singles wins and both Robert Seby and Ashot Khacharyan earned WCC Singles Player of the Week honors once.
In 2015, Mills picked up his 100th career coaching victory as the leader of the Bronco squad during a season in which Santa Clara picked up nine wins. Although the team transitioned through a roster restructuring in 2015, Mills guided the Broncos to upsets over No. 50 University of North Carolina at Wilmington and No. 67 University of Portland.
On an individual level, Mills aided in the maturation of the young Santa Clara roster and continued to bolster the veterans' games as well. Both Ilya Osintev and Sam Bertram earned WCC Player of the Week Awards and the seniors also took home hardware at the end of season. Osintsev was named to the All-WCC Second Team in singles and, in doubles, he and Bertram took home All-WCC Second Team honors as well. Fellow upperclassman Ashot Khacharyan also continued to pad his resume during his junior season, reaching the finals at the ITA Regionals in the fall and finishing the season with All-WCC Second Team honors in singles and in doubles with partner Mikheil Khmiadashvili.
During the 2014 campaign, Mills led Santa Clara to a 17-7 overall record. The squad finished the season with a national ITA ranking of No. 59 including a season-high rank of No. 42. The Broncos knocked off a number of ranked opponents including upsetting No. 39 Oregon 4-2, and beating No. 57 San Diego State 6-1, No. 64 Georgia State 4-0, and No. 69 New Mexico 4-1. Santa Clara reeled off a season-best winning streak of eight matches after starting the season 1-1, which helped it get off to its finest start in decades.
Mills’ impact on the Broncos’ season was reflected in the WCC awards, as Santa Clara took home a number of accolades throughout the year. John Lamble received First-Team All-WCC honors for his stellar singles play, Ilya Osintsev was named All-WCC Second Team, and Ashot Khacharyan earned All-WCC Honorable Mention in singles. In doubles, Lamble and Ilya Osintsev were named First-Team All-WCC. Osintsev also earned WCC Player of the Week three times, the most in the conference, and he and Lamble were named Doubles Team of the Week once. The duo was named No. 1 doubles team for the WCC Tournament Team and Osintsev earned the No. 2 singles spot as well.
Lamble was also named the ITA Senior of the Year for the Northwest Region.
Mills was able to keep the Broncos focused and motivated throughout the season. The team achieved a strong national ranking the entire season while relying on contributions from several walk-ons. One of the walk-ons picked up a huge win in the final match of the season, crushing his WCC Champion and No. 44 USD opponent 6-2, 6-2 at No. 6 in the Broncos’ upset bid.
With the Broncos’ final win of the 2014 season over USF, Mills picked up his 123rd career coaching victory. Over his seven seasons at Santa Clara, he has recorded a strong 92-70 record. After having a chance to revamp the program, Mills has gone an incredible 86-37 over the past five seasons and turned Santa Clara into a nationally ranked team.
In 2013, Mills led Santa Clara to another terrific season. The squad finished 17-10 with a national ITA ranking of No. 61 including a season-high rank of No. 35. The Broncos knocked off a number of ranked opponents including No. 38 Boise State twice, No. 55 Tulane and No. 70 UC Santa Barbara. Santa Clara reeled off a season-high winning streak of four matches from April 13 to April 24 where it defeated USF, Portland and Gonzaga twice.
In 2012, Mills led Santa Clara its most successful season in program history, while garnering West Coast Conference Coach of the Year honors. Mills led the Broncos to numerous program firsts including the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance and first NCAA Tournament win against then-No. 19 Texas during the first round. Mills coached the Broncos to all-time highs in wins in a season (22), an all-time high in national ranking at No. 29, and the highest end-of-season ranking in school history at No. 33. During the season Santa Clara finished second in the WCC while Mills coached four players to the all-conference singles team, four players to the all-conference doubles team and two members were also honored on the WCC All-Academic squad. Additionally, Mills helped Ostinsev garner WCC Freshman of the Year honors, the second Bronco to ever receive the award.
Mills, who attended high school at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco, started at Santa Clara in 2007. He spent the previous six years working with some of the top juniors as a tennis professional in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Prior to teaching in Honolulu, Mills spent two seasons at Saint Louis University as the head men's and women's tennis coach. During those two seasons, he had three of his players earn All-Conference USA honors, while the team maintained a GPA of 3.3 or better. The team also won an All-Conference USA Sportsmanship Award. Two of his recruits on the men's team, Lance Vodicka and Ikaika Jobe, are currently earning points on the ATP tour.
Mills served a short stint as the assistant coach for both the men's and women's programs at Brigham Young University-Hawaii during the 1997-98 season.
Mills also spent time as an assistant coach for Northwest Missouri State from 1994-97, helping the men's team win three Mid-America Championships.