Tennis for many exists far from the tradition of Wimbledon and the massive stadiums at the US Open. It lives and breathes at public parks and rec courts. It is there where Paul Gagliardi’s tennis odyssey began. When Paul was young he would accompany his parents Carl and Donna, and his brother Mike to Foote Park. While his parents were playing tennis, Paul would be at the playground until one day he was curious to explore the action on the courts. With the help of his parents a passion for the game developed.
Paul attended Branford High School and was a multi-sport athlete participating in tennis, basketball and cross country. In his only season running cross country, he would qualify for the State Open Championship. On the hardwood he was a defensive specialist for three seasons. With the racquet he garnered All-State honors three times while playing for the Hornets tennis team. As a sophomore he was a top singles and doubles player on a Housatonic League title team under Hall of Fame coach Jake Palluzzi. In 1992 he was selected to the New Haven Register All-Area Team, and also earned honorable mention All American accolades.
After graduating from Branford, Paul followed his brother Mike and took his game to Providence College to play Division I tennis for the Friars. He would become a Big East Tournament singles finalist in 1993 and the New England Individual Champion in 1996. While at PC he was elected team captain and together with his strong work in the classroom he earned Big East Academic All-Star. He finished his Friar career fifth in all-time singles wins playing for Coach Carl LaBranche.
Upon graduation from Providence, Paul played professional tennis from 1996-98. He played in the International Tennis Federation Futures circuit and played internationally in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Poland and Australia.
Paul returned to Branford High to teach math and coach the Hornets boys’ tennis team helping to mold a team that would win a SCC Hammonasset title.
He continued to move up through the coaching echelon, when he was hired to assist with the Yale Men’s Tennis Team from 1999-2002 helping to recruit and develop some of the Ivy League’s top players. Continuing his involvement in the development of young players, Paul joined the administration of USTA New England, promoting tennis, instructing new players, directing multiple tournaments and training tennis instructors. In conjunction with the Pilot Pen Tournament, Paul organized a unique tennis experience for youth players with pro James Blake in front of City Hall in New Haven. In 2006 Paul was named the Tennis Professional of the year by USPTA New England.
Paul returned to the college coaching ranks when he was named Head Coach of the Men’s Tennis program at Sacred Heart University in 2006. He guided the Pioneers in 2011 and 2012 to Northeast Conference Titles. Paul was rewarded as NEC Coach of the Year in 2009 and 2011. During his successful ten year stint as head coach, SHU would compete in the NCAA tournament on many occasions.
All the while Paul has not forgotten his own beginnings on the public courts in Branford. He has been a driving force behind the efforts of the Branford Recreation Department in promoting tennis across a variety of ages in the community. An invaluable resource to the athletic department at Branford High School, Paul has donated equipment for the physical education classes and the varsity tennis program and is a catalyst behind the upgrading of the high school tennis courts.
There is hardly a place in the tennis universe that Paul has not made an impression. Paul has spent a lifetime as an accomplished player and coach, promoting and spreading his passion for the game of tennis, giving back to his community of Branford and inspiring the next generation of tennis players.
Paul and his wife, Julie live in Branford with their two children Lillian and Luke. He is presently working as a math teacher at Emmett O’Brien Vocational Technical School and does private coaching as well as Head Professional at the Owenego Beach and Tennis Club.