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A tennis legend and Oklahoma high school coach is retiring. A look back at his legacy

After decades of coaching high school tennis in Oklahoma, Dick Villaflor has decided to retire.

One of the most accomplished tennis coaches in state history, Villaflor was the head coach at Heritage Hall for 34 years and led the Chargers’ boys and girls programs to 33 state championships combined before leaving the school in 2013.

Villaflor, who was most recently an assistant at Deer Creek, played at El Reno and Central State University (now known as the University of Central Oklahoma) and quickly got into coaching, ultimately becoming one of the state’s best.

Here is what Villaflor said about his career and Oklahoma high school tennis in a recent interview with The Oklahoman.

Q: What was Heritage Hall’s tennis program like when you took over there?

A: In 1978 was when I arrived at Heritage Hall. And in 1977, the history of it was that 1977 was the first year that Heritage Hall was eligible for playoff tennis, actually playoff anything for any sport. So the program had a lot of good tennis players already there, but nothing was really quite established with the exception of one family. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but they’re big in tennis. It was the Braver family that kind of stabilized the program. And then when I got there, we built the tradition I guess you could say.

Q: Oklahoma high school tennis is pretty diverse. Are there any programs in the area that promote that and try to get new people involved in the sport?

A: As far as diversity is concerned, the best program that has been created here recently, which I had nothing to do with, is called the First Serve program. They’re housed at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center and they have a board. … They have a very diverse program, and they want anybody and everybody and they have funding through donations and etc. In terms of programs back when I was coaching, when I first started coaching, most of it obviously (with) tennis being a pretty high country club sport, most of it was the country clubs back in the '70s and '80s. It didn’t become completely diverse until more in the 2000s.

Q: What do you think about the future of high school tennis in Oklahoma? Is it growing in popularity?

A: It’s growing and it’s definitely diverse. Tennis had a big boom in the '70s. … Then it had another boom in the '90s. And then since the '90s, it’s just been, at least in my opinion, a general progression of just getting deeper, more schools. If you ask the OSSAA, there are more tennis-playing schools in the association than there have ever been. And matter of fact, the smallest class — there’s three classes of tennis – is almost getting too big. They might have to consider doing other things — adding another class, maybe even a private school class because many of the private schools that are coming out now are all playing tennis.

Q: The annual state tennis tournament at OKC Tennis Center is always a big event. What are your thoughts on the tournament?

A: What the coaches really like about tennis when it comes to the playoffs and the state tournament is that all classes are combined and you have this 24-court tennis facility at the tennis center. And when you see it, it’s normally just blank with tennis courts. Well, when the state tournament comes … it’s just tent city. There’s no available space. And the crowds are incredible. If the weather is good and the sun is out, it’s just incredible because every school brings a 10x10 tent or a 20x20 tent — that’s the largest we can have — and it just fills the tennis center up. It’s an amazing environment that the coaches don’t want to lose.

Q: What are you most proud of when you think about your coaching career?

A: The fact that I got to coach intelligent, great tennis players. Developed a lot of memories from that. And developed a lot of memories from families. We know the kids are what is important in high school athletics and I developed a lot of relationships where we just had a lot, a lot of fun through the years.

Nick Sardis covers high school sports for The Oklahoman. Have a story idea for Nick? He can be reached at nsardis@oklahoman.com or on Twitter at @nicksardis. Sign up for The Varsity Club newsletter to access more high school coverage. Support Nick's work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Coach Dick Villaflor retires as one of best Oklahoma HS tennis coaches