Idaho State has found its new men’s tennis coach.
Alexander Free was announced as the new coach on Tuesday. He comes to Pocatello with a wealth of tennis experience, including two years at the University of Arizona.
“I could not be more excited to join the Bengal family and lead the tennis program here at Idaho State,” Free said. “I believe this is a unique opportunity to build a championship-level program in one of the most beautiful places in the country. I would like to thank Pauline Thiros and her entire staff for the opportunity to work with this team, athletic department, and the entire community in Pocatello. I believe this program will be contending for Big Sky Championships in the near future.”
Free spent the last two years as a volunteer assistant at Arizona. This past season, he helped coach the Wildcats to an 11-3 record in dual play and the team had a ranking as high as 23 and finished with an Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) ranking of 38.
Arizona reached historic heights during the 2018-19 season, when the team was ranked as high as No. 21, its highest ranking since 2009. The Wildcats also earned their first NCAA Tournament berth in a decade.
“We are excited to welcome Alexander to Idaho State,” ISU Athletic Director Pauline Thiros said. “It was clear during the process that he was ready and prepared to lead our men’s tennis program. He brings great knowledge of the game that will enhance our program.”
Free began his coaching career as an assistant at Appalachian State. In one season, he guided the Mountaineers to a 12-11 record, and the Mountaineers advanced to the Sun Belt tournament semifinals for only the second time in school history.
Free has coached several players who have earned national rankings. This past year at Arizona, Jonas Ziverts finished the season ranked No. 55, while Filip Malbasic was ranked No. 63. Ziverts was named the ITA Southwest Rookie of the Year in 2019 and he became the first Wildcat since 2006 to qualify for the NCAA singles championships.
Prior to coaching, Free was a student-athlete at Tyler Junior College, where he was a member of the 2014 team that advanced to the NJCAA national championship. Free then spent two years at the University of Texas at Tyler, where he was a part of two American Southwest Conference championships and was named first-team All-ASC in the 2015 season.
Free finished his playing career as a graduate transfer at Appalachian State, where he was regularly featured in the doubles lineup before entering the coaching ranks as an assistant.
Free was a four-time ITA Scholar-Athlete and was elected president of the student government at the University of Texas at Tyler in 2015.
Free replaces Mark Rodel, who had led ISU’s men’s tennis program since 2015. York Strother was originally hired to replace Rodel in October, but later resigned.