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Local Notebook: A book of love; former Red Wing tennis coach chronicles tenure

Tom Gillman, who turned around Red Wing's boys tennis program in the 1990s, has written a book about his trials and tribulations of turning the Wingers into a state power.

Tom Gillman writes book about rise of Red Wing tennis
Tom Gillman, pictured here in 1995, has written a book about his coaching tenure in Red Wing. Gillman took over an impoverished boys tennis program in 1991 and turned the Wingers into a state power. (Contributed photo)

Former Red Wing High School tennis coach Tom Gillman has written a book about his tenure at the school and how the Wingers went from an impoverished program to a state power in the 1990s.

Gillman coached the Red Wing boys tennis team from 1991 to 2001. He coached the girls for two different stints, starting in 1995. He guided the two programs for about 15 years total.

His book — entitled “Wingers” — has been out for about three weeks and focuses mainly on the Red Wing boys tennis team.

Gillman will be doing a book signing from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, April 25, at the Rochester Tennis Connection.

“I really thought it was a story worth telling,” Gillman said. “It started out as the ‘Bad News Bears’ and I had a bunch of different characters, and I’m one of them. Red Wing had not won a match in three years when I got the job in ‘91. So it was about as low as it could go in the state.”

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He writes about his trials and tribulations and his “ups and downs as a coach, as a father and all the things in my life,” he said.

Under Gillman, the Red Wing program quickly improved. The Wingers won a conference title in 1994, and in 1995 went to the state tournament for the first time.

“In the back half of the ‘90s, we became probably the best team in Section 1(AA) in the south, which is no easy challenge when considering all the teams that had indoor courts,” Gillman said. “Little Red Wing, without any advantage in the book, scraped and clawed and became a state power. We went to four state tournaments and were in the section finals for about seven straight years.”

Another compelling aspect of the book features the fall of 1997, when Gillman was expecting to have his best team. Prior to the season, a team captain and leader Brandon Goetz died in a car accident.

“I had to help the team navigate through that time, which is a big part of the story,” Gillman said. “It became a very inspirational year because the team really banded together.”

Despite the tragic loss of Goetz, the Wingers were able to advance all the way to the Class AA state finals in 1997 before falling to Edina in the championship match.

After he left the Red Wing program, Gillman coached college tennis at Wisconsin-Eau Claire for 17 seasons.

The book is available on the author’s website at TomGillman.com. It is also for sale two places in Rochester, at the Rochester Tennis Connection and also at Christos Bookcenter, which is located in Autumn Ridge Church.

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“I think there’s going to be a lot of interest in Rochester because you guys have such a burgeoning tennis community,” Gillman said.

Gillman said he has gotten endorsements on the book from Miracle on Ice captain Mike Eruzione and college tennis coach Dick Gould, who guided Stanford to 17 NCAA championships.

“I choose to take a very positive approach to writing this book,” Gillman said. “It’s an inspirational story, among others, but it’s a very positive view.”

Gillman, 59, still resides in Red Wing. He is not currently coaching, but plans on working with kids this summer.

He was an assistant coach at Wisconsin-River Falls before taking over at Red Wing.

Gillman is from Edina and he is a 1980 grad of Breck High School, where he played tennis before going on to have a college career at Wisconsin-Stout.

Guy N. Limbeck is a sports writer for the Post Bulletin. His Local Notebook appears each Tuesday. He can be reached at glimbeck@postbulletin.com .


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Related Topics: LOCAL NOTEBOOK
Guy N. Limbeck is a Rochester native who has been working at a daily newspaper since 1981. He has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Guy at 507-285-7724 or glimbeck@postbulletin.com.
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