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Posted on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:49 a.m.

Pioneer tennis coach humbled by court naming: 'This was never work for me, it was all fun'

By Danielle Arndt


Longtime Pioneer coach Tom "Brick" Pullen, left, instructs Nori Flautner during the Pioneer girls team's first state title victory in 1992. The courts at Pioneer High School were named after Pullen on Wednesday.

Ann Arbor News file photo

Longtime Pioneer High School tennis coach Tom “Brick” Pullen was humbled and a little embarrassed to be honored by the Ann Arbor school district Wednesday night.

But Liz Margolis, the district’s director of communication, had Pullen take the podium anyway to receive praise, thanks and a standing ovation from the Board of Education and the audience after the school board unanimously approved naming Pioneer's tennis courts after him.

Thumbnail image for TomPullen_Pioneer-thumb-590x393-79994.jpg

Tom Pullen, right, instructs players at the state championships in Midland in 2011. Pioneer finished runner-up that year.

Pullen, who it has been rumored in the past was mulling retirement, had just a few words to say.

“You keep mentioning all this work,” he said to the trustees, who praised him for his hard work and dedication in impacting so many young lives. “But this was never work for me. It was all fun, all passion. It was never, never work. So thank you very much for this.”

Sandy Lymburner, an Ann Arbor Public Schools parent, spoke at the meeting. She read some words from her daughter, Courtney, who previously played tennis for Pullen and is now a sophomore at California-Santa Cruz. Courtney helped nominate Pullen for the naming honor.

In her statement to the board that her mom read aloud, Courtney said tennis is a sport in which the player must be on top of not only his or her physical game, but also his or her mental game. She said Pullen taught her about perseverance and how to apply mental and physical toughness to all aspects of her life.

“He is, second only to my parents, a major player in my life,” Courtney wrote. “...He’ll be one of those people in my life that I will never be able to thank for all of the things he’s given me.”

Pullen’s history with Pioneer High School’s tennis programs includes:

  • Boys coach for 23 years
  • Girls coach for 22 years
  • All but one of his teams has finished in top six in the state
  • Pullen led the girls to five state championships and 11 state runners-up
  • The boys under Pullen have won 10 state championships and three state runners-up
  • The boys went eight years without a loss
  • Numerous Coach of the Year awards
  • Two National Coach of the Year awards

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Sat, Nov 10, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

Tom, what a record. Very proud of growing up and knowing you since 1st grade. All of us that have know you can be very proud!! Steve Leeman


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

It's good to see a great man who has worked with children in light of all the scandal in the news lately. Congrats, coach!


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

Hardest working man in high school tennis having the most fun at the same time.


Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

With dedicated coaches like Tom Pullen, it's easy to see why HS athletics are such a positive influence on many of their athletes. I had two sons that played football under Chuck White, neither one played on the first string, but they learned many life lessons that help them every day and these are lessons that I probably would not have had the opportunity to pass along to my sons.

Charles Curtis

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

Well done. I believe Coach Pullen is a dying breed and it is a shame that there are not more coaches like him. I am not referring to the wins, which are impressive, but his attitude. Having been around Pioneer for a few years now, I always see the tennis coach working with a player or group.. Coach Pullen almost lived at the courts. Its a rare thing to hear or see written the quote above, "But this was never work for me. It was all fun, all passion. It was never, never work." I do not see this type of coach much anymore. I have 3 children, none of them took to tennis, but it would have been a honor to have had my kids played for Coach Pullen. I look for coaches that have that passion, where they coach for the love of the game, not the titles, the paycheck, etc, and those coaches are a rare breed these days. Congratulations

Jeffersonian Liberal

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

Good luck topping that record.

Brewster Mallion

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

Class act, hooray sports!