When imagining men’s tennis head coach Bid Goswami, one might picture him at the Dick Savitt Tennis Center, hands locked across his chest as he stands behind the netting that separates the swarm of fans from the court.
Goswami has never been an aggressive coach, and today is no exception. His team has already won its sixth consecutive Ivy League title, but a victory over Cornell in their final Ivy match would see the Lions take home the crown outright. Despite the high stakes, Goswami shows little sign of stress as he watches sophomore Jack Lin return each swing in a singles match on court three. Attempting to assuage Lin’s frustration after he falls behind his Cornell competitor, Goswami softly repeats, “Take your time.”
Goswami’s aloof nature contrasts that of Cornell’s head coach Silviu Tanasoiu, who rapidly paces back and forth and talks to his players after almost every point. Instead, Goswami comes over to the bench only periodically between games, placing his hand gently on his players’ shoulders and giving sparse but concerted advice.
Rob Endelman, brother of future head coach Howard Endelman and renowned Columbia men’s tennis superfan, riles up the crowd with some iconic chants, “Let’s go Lions,” and “Stay engaged, stay engaged.” But Goswami is always engaged, his eyes fixed on the match in front of him.
After a pair of wins on courts three and four, Goswami moves to court two where sophomore Rian Pandole lags behind his opponent in his third set. Goswami goes over to speak to him, but he never raises his voice. He never needs to.
The score lies at 3-2 with the Lions in the lead. A single win and the title is theirs. But Goswami is just as unfazed as in the first moments of the match.
Junior Adam Ambrozy eventually clinches the match and the title for the Light Blue. The entirety of the Dick Savitt Tennis Center erupts into a single cheer, led by the players themselves: “Bid Goswami! Bid Goswami!” The myriad of fans came not only for the championship match, but for Goswami’s final match at home.
After the trophy presentation, dozens of players past and present, alumni, faculty, and parents approach the coach to congratulate him. Goswami’s career has been marked not only by hundreds of wins (he earned his milestone 500th win back in March), but also by the hundreds of lives he has touched.
Despite the Cornell match being his last of the regular season, he doesn’t see the win as something for him, but rather for the people, especially his formers players, who came out to support the team.
“I just wanted to win for them more than anything.”
“He takes great players and makes them better”
Goswami never planned to be a coach.
He began his career on the pro tour, earning the Indian National Doubles title in 1978 and the Singles title in 1979. He made the transition to the United States shortly afterward, taking up a job as the head pro at the Westchester Country Club while competing on the side.
But by 1981, Goswami was married, and his wife was expecting. It just so happened that a position at Columbia opened up.
“I took a chance and applied,” he said. “I probably would never get the job now. I was in the right time at the right place.”
Columbia at the time was far from a tennis powerhouse. With no outdoor courts and having to practice on clay, recruitment was not easy. But this did not discourage Goswami. He was excited about the challenge ahead, envisioning a much bigger future for the team.
“When I started, I realized how much I loved coaching,” Goswami said. But this love alone was not enough. Coaching, like tennis, was another thing that Goswami had to hone his skills for. “I was never given a formal education, just learned on the go,” he later added.
What he learned early—and what he held onto throughout his career—was the idea that coaching is “all about relationships.” When he entered into the role, Goswami found himself bonding with his first team instantly; in his mind, the students were like his “younger brothers.”
Now, 37 years later, Goswami has amassed 14 Ivy League titles and 510 wins to his name.
According to a number of his former players, Goswami’s style of coaching has not changed much over the course of his decades at Columbia. He has stayed calm and collected throughout his career.
But Goswami doesn’t always see himself in the same way that others have painted him, often brushing off such compliments.
“I’ve paid them all a lot of money to say the right things,” he joked.
Disguised in this witty response is one of the greatest skills Goswami has developed as a coach: the ability to put himself in his players’ shoes. He is a calm coach, because he is an empathetic coach, someone who sees the immense amount of stress his players are under and does everything he can to lighten that burden.
“I hope that I have fulfilled that desire of mine to be calm, cool, and collected when the match is on the line,” Goswami said.
Senior co-captain and 2018 and 2019 Ivy League Player of the Year Victor Pham referred to Goswami as “a calming force on the court.” Matt Litsky, CC ’87 and a member of Goswami’s first recruiting class, agreed with Pham’s sentiments: “He kept reminding me to stay calm, or as calm as someone like me could.”
It was Goswami’s calming demeanor that drew Litsky to Columbia back in 1983. He had other coaches recruiting him but remembered Goswami as a coach that was “not pushy” compared to the others. He was straightforward with his plans for Litsky and the team, and it was something the 17-year-old had appreciated. It was not until the late spring that Litsky had been accepted to Columbia, but he remembered how Goswami had been patient with him the entire time, since recruits traditionally were supposed to get into Columbia much earlier.
But Goswami can also be assertive when he needs to be, making sure that his team wins the right way. In a match against Yale in 1997, former team captain Navroz Udwadia, CC ’97, won a singles match on a default because his opponent slipped on the clay. That wasn’t good enough for Goswami.
“I saw the whole thing, and I didn’t feel good about it. I said to Navroz, ‘Is that how you want to win the match?’” Goswami said about the incident. “I told the referee, ‘Let them play.’”
Udwadia was furious with his coach for making him replay a match that he had already won. But Goswami reminded the senior that “You’re a winner, you’re a champion. You want to win the right way.” Goswami admitted he feared what would happen if Udwadia lost. “I never prayed before,” he said, “but I prayed for that match.”
Though he confessed he was furious at the time, Udwadia later looked back on that moment as one that was incredibly meaningful, both for this growth as a player and as a person.
When asked what Goswami had taught him and what he represents to him, Udwadia was quick to respond: “Sportsmanship, hard work. Winning the right way. Never giving up.”
For all his accolades, what truly stands out about Goswami is his humility. He is a coaching success story unlike many others, yet he does not take responsibility for his success.
Players past and present have described Goswami with the exact same language he used to describe the coach he has always strived to be. What he said drove his journey to becoming a great coach was the desire to see every player succeed both on and off the court. According to John Lui, father of sophomore player Jason Lui, Goswami is always the last person off the court with his players. He sees his job as building stronger players and people, so he must put in as much effort, if not more, than those he coaches.
Senior co-captain Tim Wang, a player who has only lost a single Ivy League match over his four years, emphasized Goswami’s dedication to the team.
“It’s all about longevity and consistency. That’s what defines Bid,” Wang said.
Longtime friend and current director of the Dick Savitt Tennis Center Gaurav Misra noted, “Bid coaches the number nine player the same as he would coach the number one player.”
Each player, according to Goswami, gives their heart and soul to their play, and that’s what makes them a phenomenal team.
“If a head coach can treat all these guys in the same vein, then it becomes a real team,” Goswami said.
In 1994, the team was expected to come in last place in the Ivy League, but Goswami refused to accept that outcome. He encouraged the team to work harder, believe in themselves, and they went on to win the conference title that season.
But the team has not always achieved this level of success. In the 2001-2002 season, the team struggled to compete due to inadequate practice space and ended the season 5-12, yet Goswami looks back on that season as a major success due to the effort the team put in.
“Of course [winning] is great, you’re like a ‘genius coach,’” Goswami said about that season, “but as long as the hard work was there, I felt like I was successful.”
While Goswami has emphasized the necessity for each player of retaining their individuality, he has also built a culture of teamwork. When you join Columbia, you become a member of something bigger.
“We were a team, but tennis is not a team sport. You’re alone out there,” Litsky said. “Bid managed to convince us that tennis was a team sport: You were going to win for yourself out there, but also win for the team and sacrifice for the team.”
For Goswami, tennis has always been a sport of community and camaraderie, especially on the college circuit. Every match is an opportunity to work as a team and win as a team. Despite the hundreds of wins he has accumulated during his tenure at Columbia, he claims each win still gives him the same pride for the team that he felt back in his first season in 1982.
“The win is always the same, it’s always a great feeling. I still get butterflies before every match, whether we’re playing the worst team in the Ivies or the best team.”
“Like a sage, old and wise”
Despite his immense success, for Goswami it was never about the wins—it was about molding the young men he coached.
“It’s the most rewarding to see them all successful in life. Some in finance, some are now lawyers, some are doctors. To know that I’ve been a part of their lives for 40 years—I know that I’ve learned a lot more from them then they’ve learned from me—that’s been the most rewarding part of this journey,” he said. “Apart from wins and losses, every guy has become [a] great human [being]. They all have moved on, families, different jobs, some even followed me. And they’re very successful in their own way.”
Pham emphasized that Goswami’s culture of holistic development was what drew him to the program.
“I chose Columbia because all the players were really well rounded,” Pham said. “Everyone’s going to end tennis at some point. Coach Bid really believed that you can be a top tennis player but also have great priorities in your schoolwork and life beyond tennis. That really stood out to me, because a lot of the other programs I was looking at were mainly tennis-focused.”
Other players shared similar sentiments, pointing out that Goswami has become a lifelong mentor.
“Even now when I play senior tournaments, I actually text him my results,” Litsky said.
Mary Huang, mother of sophomore Austen Huang, enthusiastically spoke about her decision to let her son go to Columbia. Mary, a California native, wanted to specifically make sure that the team was one that was a family more than anything else. “I wanted to make sure that [Austen] always had someone to go to.”
Salil Seshadri, CC ’00, a former member of the team who actually left the pro tour to train with Goswami and Columbia, reflected on his transition to New York from India. He said that while Goswami treated the players like adults, he was always there to listen and help. For an international student like Seshadri, it was important not only to get the full college experience, but also the full American experience. He referenced how Goswami really empathized with the struggles he faced and made sure that Seshadri was thriving at Columbia off the court.
According to Seshadri, Columbia men’s tennis has “so many fans because of what Bid meant to them.”
Goswami’s unique mentorship, which saw him prioritize academics as much as tennis, has had tangible results—men’s tennis had the highest GPA of all 31 Columbia sports in 2019.
Winston Lin, CC ’15, is a perfect example of someone who truly benefited from Goswami’s attention. Lin went on to play tennis professionally for three years after Columbia.
“Bid created an environment where you put in as much as you get out. I wanted to train more so he made time for me to do so,” Lin said.
Both present and past members of Columbia tennis spoke reverently about the head coach, but the respect is mutual. He has consistently placed trust in his players to make the right choices. Winston Lin would go on to suggest a player for Goswami to look at for recruitment, and Goswami trusted Lin enough to go after that player and eventually get him to join Columbia. That player was Jack Lin, one of the Lions’ top players who recently became an All-American.
Goswami cites the fact that he coaches for the Ivy League as one of the reasons he trusts his players so much. As a university without athletic scholarships, the players who come to Columbia want to represent Columbia; there is no financial incentive to work hard or be motivated.
“I’m not giving these guys another cent for another win,” Goswami said. “It is the best place to be, in the Ivy League.”
Columbia’s lack of outdoor courts, a detractor for many recruits, is in fact what Goswami sees as a crucial element in creating a versatile team able to take on greater challenges. Working against all odds, he knows, has translated from his players’ tennis performances to their lives once they leave Morningside Heights.
“I feel like our guys are tougher,” Goswami said. “Find me another team that practices in a public park.”
His voice further radiates with pride when he speaks about this year’s team, one he has consistently referred to as “special.” Being a student-athlete at Columbia is demanding, and he is not afraid to hype up his players for their dedication and achievement.
“They’re doing it because they love the game. They’re passionate about the game,” he said. “[Because of their passion] I try to give them the best that I can.”
“Maybe next year I’ll be an even better coach, but we’ll never know”
Goswami’s parents did not approve of his choice to go into tennis coaching. Instead, they saw him becoming a doctor or a lawyer. But when Goswami took on the head coach position at Columbia, his father finally showed a sign of approval. Perhaps it was the prestige of Columbia that swayed him, or maybe he too was able to see the potential Goswami had to redefine Columbia tennis.
The Columbia sports community has been quick to recognize Bid’s immense legacy. Rajeev Emany, CC ’05 and a former player who has remained extremely involved with the program, laid it out simply: “Bid is Columbia tennis.”
Recently inducted into the USTA Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame and named Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year, Goswami’s reputation extends so far that it stands tall in the tennis community at large.
Lloyd Emanuel, CC ’71 and a former tennis player for the Lions, called Goswami “the greatest coach in the history of Columbia tennis or any sport,” despite never playing under him.
“For one to walk in and see all these banners, they might think it’s easy to win six in a row, but it’s not. But certainly it’s not an accident. That’s a testament to everything Coach Bid laid out for us, Howie, the culture we have here,” Wang said. “It’s not just one or two title success, it’s generations. I think that’s a testament to Bid. He brings it every day. He holds everything together.”
Athletics Director Peter Pilling echoed these sentiments, expressing how much Goswami means not only to just Columbia tennis but to Columbia Athletics as a whole.
“He represents what’s great about Columbia, in terms of his interest in our student-athletes in all aspects of their lives. … He’s a great individual who prepares people to be successful in life and teaches life lessons. We’re incredibly honored to have Bid lead our program for all these years, and we’re thankful for all the contributions he’s made to Columbia Athletics and Columbia men’s tennis program,” Pilling said.
Goswami had been considering retirement since 2015, but swept up in the excitement of an unexpected Ivy crown in 2016, he continued to coach. Now, three years later, he is finally stepping down.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Goswami said. “I couldn’t have written [this] script.”
Goswami leaves on the heels of one of his most successful seasons ever. A sixth consecutive Ivy League title, a perfect record in Ivy play, a Sweet 16 finish in the NCAA championships, and three of his players competing in the NCAA singles and doubles championships—there is not much more a coach could ask for.
“It’s always nice to go out on top, and on your own terms,” he added.
Moving forward, associate head coach Howard Endelman, CC ’87, will take the reins from his former coach. Players, alumni, Pilling, and Goswami alike have full faith that Endelman will fill the very large shoes of his predecessor.
“Right from the first year, [Endelman] felt like a leader,” Goswami said. “He made me look like a genius by coming to Columbia.”
Endelman served as team captain in the 1985-86 season as well as the 1986-87 season. Under his leadership and Goswami’s coaching, the 1987 team won the Ancient Eight crown and is still considered by many to be the greatest Columbia tennis team of all time.
It’s almost fate that one of Goswami’s very first recruits will assume the role of head coach, his legacy coming full circle.
“I’m very grateful to everybody for making such a big fuss about it. It’s not about me, it’s about the team.” Goswami said. “Once it’s done, I’ll be very grateful that I was a part of this great program and I had the privilege of serving Columbia. I tried my very best and I’m happy with that.”
But after 37 years of coaching, 14 Ivy League titles, and 510 wins, what does Goswami have left to look forward to? He is quick to answer, “A good night’s rest.”