⬆️⬆️ WATCH: Tommy Paul's TenniStory ⬆️⬆️

Inside the psyche of every man of any age is a 14-year-old boy: the scratchy dawn of a voice, physical discoveries that seem to surface daily and, most challenging of all, the world starting to demand you find a viable place in it.

For some, that 14-year-old is deeply tucked inside a remote corner. But if you occupy the world of professional tennis, he’s often much closer, in many ways for good reason. For at a moment’s notice, you might need to access that 14-year-old’s sensate qualities, be it in the form of a quick verbal retort, a demonstration of increased physical prowess, a showcase of compelling intellect, or even all three concurrently.

Longstanding coach Brad Stine will turn 64 on December 25. Stine’s superpower is his ability to summon that 14-year-old—and then harness decades of maturity and knowledge to deliver a rare, grounded form of insight to any player he works with. Over more than 30 years, those pros have included Jim Courier, Jonathan Stark, Andrei Medvedev, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Sebastien Grosjean, Kevin Anderson and, since 2020, rising young American Tommy Paul. Says Paul, “He’s a wise old man and young at the same time.” According to Courier, “With Brad it’s all protein, no fat.”

A Rainy Day in Fresno: From the Ground Up

It’s a rainy November morning in Fresno, a California Central Valley city smack in between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Stine has lived here since the early ‘80s, when he lettered at Fresno State and, at the age of 26, became its coach—at the time, the youngest Division I men’s tennis coach.


With Sebastian Grosjean in 2005.

With Sebastian Grosjean in 2005.

Having just returned two days ago from work with Paul at the Paris Masters, Stine is still shaking off jet lag. Quickly, Stine rises out of his chair to demonstrate what he studies most closely when assessing and working with a player: footwork. As Stine sees it, the alpha and omega in determining success is how proficiently a player organizes his feet. You’d be surprised, Stine notes, how much time with world class players is devoted to significant detail work in this area. “His main concept is called ‘the move,’ the move from the corners so that you have the best possible footwork on both sides,” says Ethan Quinn. Runner-up this past August at the USTA National Boys 18s in Kalamazoo, the Fresno-raised Quinn currently plays for the University of Georgia, has worked with Stine since he was six years old, and intends to continue their partnership once he turns pro.

It only makes sense that Stine sees tennis from the ground up. He’s always had to. While former Top 200 players who become coaches immediately enter the pro tennis locker room with a degree of perceived credibility, that wasn’t the case for Stine. As a junior, he only played one match at a national tournament. Though he’d improve rapidly, eventually earn wins over former Top 200 players, and beat teenagers Pete Sampras and Michael Chang in practice sets while coaching them in Junior Davis Cup, Stine knew that little in his playing career would shape how he’d be perceived as a coach. “He embraced that as a challenge,” says Tom Gullikson, who first met Stine in the late ‘80s when Gullikson was part of the USTA’s newly formed player development team. “He knew he was going to have to earn his stripes every day.”

Coaching & The Art of Persuasion

Gullikson’s not the only one who invokes the military when talking about Stine. “He’s a pretty hard-driving kind of guy,” says Dan McCall, who worked with Stine extensively as a junior and eventually lettered at Duke. “I could see him in the military in some sort of function.” Movies like Saving Private Ryan and Patton—the latter a film Stine saw seven times as an adolescent—have strongly shaped his worldview, a mindset that prioritizes such concepts as character, dedication, loyalty, and teamwork.

Borrowing from another conflict-based discipline, Stine compares himself to a trial lawyer. “I look at my position as I have to go to my player and I have to make an argument that they're going to buy into without a shadow of a doubt,” he says. The tricky part is that while the coach must marshal evidence and issue persuasive statements, the tennis player is simultaneously client, jury, judge, executioner and sometimes even witness.


With Brad it’s all protein, no fat. —Jim Courier

According to Stark, “Brad helps you see what kind of player you can be.” In Stark’s case, that required a strong emphasis on honing his serve-and-volley skills. Courier’s strength was his unsurpassed physical and mental fitness. Quinn’s asset is his forehand. Paul is versatile. “He doesn’t want me to be too patterned,” says Paul. “He calls it being Picasso—be creative and use the whole court.”

But winning over a courtroom is not easy. “Eighty percent of coaching I think is confrontational,” says Stine. Just don’t confuse that with being adversarial. According to Stine, “Confrontational is confronting them with truths and realities that maybe they're not as comfortable with, but doing it in a way that isn't confrontational and doesn't put them on defense.”

What Becomes of a Broken Hand?

Stine’s willingness to be confrontational has its roots in what kind of 14-year-old he was. Growing up in San Mateo, a comfortable suburb 20 miles south of San Francisco, Stine was a baseball zealot. He also at that age stood one inch shy of five feet tall. As can be the case with undersized boys, Stone was driven and feisty, a perfect set of qualities for one darn tenacious second baseman. When he was 14, Stine got in a fight and ended up breaking his right hand. Exiled from the baseball diamond, stuck inside his house, Stine grew bored, picked up a tennis racquet and began to hit lefthanded against a local backboard. Soon he was hooked. By his late teens, Stine had become proficient enough at tennis to play with another San Mateo resident, 1975 Wimbledon women’s doubles champion Ann Kiyomura.

But that still put him far behind dozens of California’s highly skilled juniors and college players. Upon graduation from high school, Stine entered nearby community college, Cañada College, earned a spot on the tennis team and devoured the wisdom of its coach, Rich Anderson, an excellent player who in his time had competed at the US Nationals (now the US Open). Anderson instantly recognized how eager Stine was to immerse himself in the tennis. As Anderson recalls, “He showed spunk and leadership without really telling anybody to do anything.”


Stine's coaching pathway has included partnerships with Kevin Anderson and Jim Courier.

Stine's coaching pathway has included partnerships with Kevin Anderson and Jim Courier.

Transferring to Fresno State for his junior and senior years of college, Stine became an assistant coach and, soon enough, head coach, where he piloted the Bulldogs (a fitting name for Stine’s temperament) to their first-ever top 20 national ranking. By the late ‘80s, Stine was on the path to becoming a common kind of regional legend: the leader of a surprisingly formidable college squad, as well as an excellent Open player.

On the Ground Floor of American Tennis’ Greatest Generation

Then, per Stine’s favorite movies, there came a summons, the tennis version of a chance to serve in the sport’s burgeoning Marine Corps. Stine was asked by US Junior Davis Cup coach Greg Patton (a man Stine jokingly calls “General Patton”) to be his assistant coach. Looking back, Stine can’t believe that at first, he hesitated. But once Stine committed, he was on the ground floor of what proved an incredible generation of American tennis—Courier, Sampras, Chang, Stark, Todd Martin, MaliVai Washington, David Wheaton, Jared Palmer—just some of the many teens Stine worked closely with over the course of several summers. “You could tell he was gifted,” says Patton. “He’s like that wacky professor who hangs out with the students.”

At the end of 1990, Courier was 20 years old and ranked No. 25 in the world. Jose Higueras became his new coach, working with Gullikson as part of the USTA player development effort. Gullikson and Higueras in turn asked Stine to join Courier’s team. “I needed someone that complemented what I was doing with Jim,” says Higueras. “Brad is convinced about the important things. He’s extremely reliable.”

But while college tennis and Junior Davis Cup were plausible stepping stones, the big-time world of pro tennis was another. “Brad embraced that challenge,” says Gullikson. “He’s a smart guy and a career learner.”

All of that accrued knowledge surfaced in those early months of ’91 when Stine worked with Courier. “Brad was not afraid to speak his mind,” says Courier. “He wasn’t going to be a yes man.”


He doesn’t want me to be too patterned. He calls it being Picasso—be creative and use the whole court. —Tommy Paul

The D-Day moment came that spring in Rome. Wins at the “Sunshine Double” tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami had propelled Courier into the Top 10. But he also began to feel pressured by new expectations. Following a frustrating third round loss at the Italian Open, Stine recalled that Courier left the tournament quickly, without talking to anyone. “For me, as a collegiate coach,” says Stine, “that was completely unacceptable.” Eventually finding Courier, Stine approached him to discuss the match and other matters. "Not now," said an agitated Courier.

As Stine recalls, “And I said, ‘Well if not now then don’t expect me to be here when you’re ready.’ And he kind of looked at me with a shocked look on his face.” The two continued, having what Stine describes as a “pretty adversarial confrontation.” But in the end, they found common ground. The next day, Stine and Courier toured Rome, including a trip to the Vatican. There, the essence of Stine: in your face, supported by faith. “He’s on a pilgrimage,” says Patton. “He has to be out, traveling in his robes, helping people.” The next month, Courier won the singles title at Roland Garros, his first of four majors. Stine and Courier would work together for two stints, one from ’91-’94, another from ’97 until the end of Courier’s career in ’00.

The Tao of Brad

As much as Stine has lived his life in the zero-sum world of athletic competition, tennis might well be merely his means for a higher purpose. Says Patton, “It’s evident that he’s a holy monk and it’s all about the cause... You think he’s a mechanic, but he’s really a philosopher and a poet.”

Stine’s favorite book is The Tao of Pooh, a short, proverb-like tale that explains how Winnie-the-Pooh, the iconic children’s book character, brilliantly blends acceptance and serenity. As the book’s author, Benjamin Hoff, writes, “When you know and respect your own Inner Nature you know where you belong.”


All Stine’s powers figure to surface in his next pilgrimage. The pros he has worked with have been the tennis equivalent of graduate students, their techniques previously built by the time they began to partner with Stine. It’s different with Quinn. “He put the fundamentals in all my strokes,” says Quinn. “Everything I have is from him. He started giving me a professional level game from an early age.”

Back in Fresno on that wet Monday morning, traces of sunshine begin to surface. Stine is sitting in a room at the Fig Garden Swim & Racquet Club, Fresno’s longstanding iconic club that’s seen many of the world’s best players compete and practice there. Pondering what he’d be if he wasn’t a tennis coach, Stine first declares his affinity for the solitude of gardening. Then comes another thought: life as a baseball coach.

Stine plans to work with Quinn and Paul simultaneously, sharing a trainer and other team members. Both players are excited about this collaborative opportunity. Says Paul, “Brad supports me as a person, not just a tennis player.” Having cultivated many skills in the solitary garden of tennis for so long, Stine now hopes to return to his roots in team play. From The Tao of Pooh: “When we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us, we reach the level of Wu Wei. Then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort.” Stine’s 14-year-old smoothly endures, made all the wiser by 50 years of meaningful confrontation and accumulated wisdom.