GREENVILLE, N.C. – Tom Morris, a North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame inductee and East Carolina’s all-time women’s tennis wins leader, announced Thursday he will retire as the program’s head coach effective March 1.

When he steps down from a position he has held since 1998, Morris will cap an illustrious career that has included multiple national honors on the court, in the classroom and in the community.

Associate head coach Kirstin Burgess, who was a four-year letterwinner as a student-athlete under Morris from 2003 to 2006 and a member of his coaching staff since 2012, will serve as the Pirates’ interim head coach beginning in March.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to have had the opportunity to work as the women’s tennis coach for the past 22 years at East Carolina University,” Morris said. “When I look back at where we were in 1998 and where we are at this time, I feel very comfortable making this transition. In retrospect, I believe we have achieved many goals over the past few years that I wasn’t sure were possible when I started.

“First, I have to thank the wonderful group of young ladies involved in this program over the years, who worked so hard in so many different ways to move this program to where it is today. There have been such great memories and even better stories which I will always remember and embellish whenever possible! I also want to thank Kirstin Burgess for the support and leadership she has provided both as a player and coach in this program. I know she will continue to develop ECU Women’s Tennis to a higher level.”

In 21-plus seasons directing the women’s team, Morris has compiled 316 victories – an average of nearly 16 per spring. He also amassed 68 triumphs while serving as ECU’s men’s coach from 1999 to 2004, and including a nine-year tenure at Barton College, Morris’ career win count currently stands at an impressive 559.

The Pirates have won at least 10 matches in every single season during Morris’ stay and finished under .500 just once. Prior to his arrival in Greenville, East Carolina had won at least 15 matches in a season just twice in 23 seasons before Morris’ teams did it 12 different times.

ECU set records for single-season victories on three occasions, first in 2005 (17), then again the following year after racking up a 19-9 ledger before shattering the existing standard with a 22-3 mark in 2019.

Morris’ final full season will stand as the best in program history. After the dropping their first two matches of the year, the Pirates rolled off 22 straight victories – the longest winning streak by any sport in ECU history. His squad was ranked No. 49 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, a program best. Individually, the doubles tandem of Lisa Hofbauer and Alisa Diercksen stood No. 49 nationally, upping Morris’ count of ranked players to five. Additionally, Hofbauer became the second Pirate to earn All-American Athletic Conference honors, joining three-time selection and 2017 AAC Player-of-the-Year Celia Ruiz.

Morris’ program also excelled off the court with numerous national academic and community service accolades.

East Carolina was cited as an ITA All-Academic Team and was awarded the ITA Community Service Award for the Carolina Region in 2019. The honor marked the eighth-straight year the Pirates had been named an All-Academic Team under Morris and six of his players were named ITA Scholar-Athletes at least twice.

The women’s tennis program performed 444 hours of community service during the 2018-19 season on their way to earning the regional honors from ITA for the third consecutive year. Impressively, ECU was also recognized by the ITA as its national recipient in 2017.

“Coach Morris has provided a distinguished level of service to East Carolina University, our athletics department and his student-athletes for over 20 years and is well-respected in the tennis community locally, regionally and nationally,” ECU Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert said. “While his success on the court speaks for itself, his lasting impact will be the many lives he touched with his grace, character and integrity. We are sorry to see him leave, but wish him all the best in his well-earned retirement.”

Before his appointment at ECU, Morris directed the tennis fortunes at Barton College (formerly Atlantic Christian College) from 1990 to 1998 after a stellar playing career there.

He guided the men’s teams to six conference championships while his women’s squads won four league titles. He was named Carolinas Conference Coach-of-the-Year on four occasions and earned NAIA District 26 Coach-of-the-Year honors once. Following the 1997 season, Morris was tabbed as the NCAA Men’s East Regional Coach-of-the-Year, making him one of four finalists for the NCAA Division II National Coach-of-the-Year award.

In all, Morris coached eight All-America selections and eight conference players-of-the-year during his tenure at Barton.

As a student-athlete, Morris was Atlantic Christian’s top-seeded singles player in each of his four years and earned All-America recognition twice. As a senior in 1979, he helped Atlantic Christian reach the NAIA National Championship. His 105 career singles victories still stand as a school record, and additionally, he compiled a career singles mark of 17-4 at the national tournament.

His outstanding playing and coaching accomplishments at Barton, along with his leadership to the East Carolina program, rightfully earned Morris a place in the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame with his induction on Jan. 30, 2010 in Pinehurst.

“I appreciate the efforts of everyone in the athletics department who have worked so hard through the years behind the scenes to provide support for the our teams, and I want to offer a special thank you to Jon Gilbert for his help in this process,” Morris added. “I will look forward to watching ECU Athletics soar to new heights under his leadership. Go Pirates!”

Morris’ wife, Carol, is a former standout tennis player at the University of South Carolina who was also a part of the top-ranked doubles pair in Juniors play.

The couple has three children – daughter Chris and sons Jack and Al.