Bill Kuross, a tennis and squash star who helped coach Washburn High School to a city conference championship in football in the 1960s, was known as much for his approachability as for his skills on both field and court.
Kuross died of Parkinson’s disease Jan. 31 at Walker Methodist Care Suites in Edina. He was 87.
Kuross was born in Minneapolis and played football for Central High School in Minneapolis. He earned an education degree from Augsburg College, where he was a repeat tennis champion in the mid 1940s.
His tennis career continued to blossom in the 1950s when he played for the U.S. Navy team in Philadelphia and at the U.S. Open in Forest Hills, N.Y., said his son Bill, of Minneapolis.
“Sports were definitely his passion,” his son said. “He was such an outgoing and gregarious guy. He had lots of friends.”
Kuross started teaching social studies in Slayton, Minn., before moving to Minneapolis and teaching at Ramsey Junior High and Washburn. He was part of the football coaching team that led the high school to consecutive city conference championships in the early 1960s.
He became head coach in 1964. In an interview with the Minneapolis Tribune, his coaching style was described as “guiding the players with a strong hand overshadowed by a warm and outgoing personality.”
During the 1960s and ’70s, Kuross won several consecutive state open tennis championships. He was also ranked fourth nationally in senior doubles in his 50s.
Kuross had a love for squash as well, a sport in which he also became a state singles and doubles champion.
“Squash is the greatest conditioner there is,” he said in an interview with the Minneapolis Star in 1982. “It doesn’t involve running like tennis. I don’t think running is fun. Squash is quickness and fast movement.”
Kuross had another impact on the local tennis scene with the Minikahda Invitational, an idea he developed when he was a teaching pro at the club in Minneapolis in 1958. It was considered the premier tennis event in the Twin Cities and brought together a small group of local players against nationally ranked professionals.
Past invitational champions Vic Seixas, Ham Richardson and Allen Fox helped shape tennis in the United States before the sport’s U.S. Open era arrived in the late 1960s. Future Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi also played in the tournament.
The invitational raised funds for inner-city tennis programs of the Northwestern Tennis Association, and Kuross received awards recognizing the hundreds of thousands of dollars his efforts solicited.
Kuross eventually quit teaching and started work for Advance Machine Company in Spring Park, which manufactured and sold commercial floor cleaning equipment. During his 20 years with the company, he became its national sales manager.
He then spent 30 years running his own janitorial wholesale equipment and product distribution company, Savoie Supply in Bloomington. He sold the business and retired about five years ago, his son said.
He loved anything sports-related and frequently attended Vikings, Gophers and Augsburg games. He was also an avid deer and duck hunter.
He is preceded in death by his wife Edith, who died in 2012, and brother Arthur. Besides his son, Kuross is survived by nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held later this year.