Dan Witteman has been an integral part of the South-Western City Schools' high school tennis scene since the early 1970s.
That era is coming to an end as Witteman has stepped down after 31 seasons as girls coach at Grove City, citing health reasons.
Witteman, 78, underwent quadruple bypass surgery in October after suffering a heart attack while coaching the Greyhounds in a Division I sectional at Hilliard Bradley.
Witteman said the heart surgery was a success, but he continues to have left ankle and foot issues. He will have testing on both this month.
Once those improve, Witteman plans on remaining with the athletics department as an adviser for the boys and girls programs.
He coached the Westland boys team for 42 seasons before the program was disbanded in 2016 because of a lack of interest. He was inducted into the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003.
"I never aspired to go to another school," Witteman said. "I always wanted to stay in South-Western, whether it was Westland or Grove City. It's my home and I did everything I could to promote tennis in this school district.
"If I can get better, I will continue to do that. I'm better, but I'd like to be able to get out on the court again and share some of my information."
Witteman's wife, Marcy, died in August 2019.
"I want to stay involved in tennis," he said. "It's been a big part of my life. When my wife died, that was a traumatic thing for me and then about a month later I had this heart attack, so last year was a tough year for me."
Witteman has collected many tennis keepsakes over the years, including a photo of Grove City's four seniors who played in his final season last fall.
That photo includes Olivia Norbut, who will continue her tennis career at Wittenberg.
"You see other school districts like Pickerington and you think of these power schools, but I could not be more thankful for my years as part of the tennis program at Grove City because of Dan," Norbut said. "He has really shaped me not only as a player, but as a person.
"He will forever have an impact in my life because of his passion for life. He's just so dedicated to the sport that he loves. It's so contagious."
Witteman was inducted into the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003 and the courts at Westland were named in his honor in 2005.
"I have had multiple opportunities to work with coach Witteman, as a counselor at Westland, as a representative of Franklin County Children Services, and most recently in his role as Grove City's girls tennis coach," said Kris Sander, the athletics director and an assistant principal at Grove City. "In all roles, he was the ultimate professional and advocate for students and athletes. To say coach Witteman is an ambassador for high school tennis in central Ohio is truly an understatement."
Witteman helped organize summer youth tennis camps in the district.
"The good thing about Dan is he could have gone anywhere in the city, in the state, in the nation and coach tennis, because he was that good at it and his approach was that solid," former Westland athletics director Greg Burke said. "He didn't pat people on the back and give them little trophies. He was after them, but they responded to him."
Pending school board approval, Josh Chandler will replace Witteman at Grove City. Chandler was preparing to begin his second season as Grove City's boys coach when the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of spring sports.
A 1960 graduate of Grove City, Witteman earned a bachelor's degree in education from Capital and a master's degree in education from Xavier.
He retired after 36 years as guidance counselor at Westland in 2006.