In one of the higher-profile coaching transactions in recent years, U.S. women’s national team coach Hugh McCutcheon was recently named the University of Minnesota’s head women’s coach.
McCutcheon will eventually replace AVCA Hall of Famer Mike Hebert who retired in December after leading the Gophers to three NCAA national semifinal appearances (2003, 2004 and 2009) and one NCAA championship match (2004).
McCutcheon will continue to fulfill his current obligations with USA Volleyball and will join Minnesota as its fulltime head coach Sept. 1, 2012 after the conclusion of the 2012 London Olympic Games, it was recently announced.
Current Minnesota assistant coach Laura Bush, a former head women’s coach at Marquette and Auburn, will serve as interim head coach while McCutcheon is with the U.S. women’s team.
“The decision to leave the international arena was primarily driven by my desire to spend more time with my family,” McCutcheon told Volleyball. “We travel a lot with the national team, often for long periods of time. Consequently it’s not always the best environment to fulfill my responsibilities as a husband and a father. Professionally, the University of Minnesota just felt like the right fit for us. It’s a great school with a strong history of success in volleyball. We’re excited to be part of it.”
The 41-year-old McCutcheon is married to 2004 U.S. women’s indoor Olympian and former UCLA standout Elisabeth “Wiz” Bachman, who is from the Minneapolis area. The couple has a young son. Bachman played professionally in the now-defunct United States Professional Volleyball League for the Minnesota Chill and helped that team win the 2002 league championship.
McCutcheon noted numerous factors went into his decision to remain in Anaheim with the U.S. team through the London Olympics.
“Ultimately, after a lot of thought and discussion, it became clear that finishing the quad was the right thing to do,” he said. “I’m very grateful to USA Volleyball and the University of Minnesota for being so supportive of this solution.”
McCutcheon’s coaching stock has taken a meteoric jump in a short period of time. The former Brigham Young University player and assistant coach led the U.S. men’s Olympic team to the 2008 gold medal in Beijing amidst personal tragedy. McCutcheon’s father-in-law was stabbed to death and his mother-in-law severely injured in an attack at a popular Chinese tourist attraction before the opening ceremonies.
McCutcheon, who had been on the U.S. men’s coaching staff since 2003, took the U.S. women’s position after former coach and Chinese legend Jenny Lang Ping resigned shortly after the Beijing Olympics.
McCutcheon, a New Zealand native, has continued to work his coaching magic with the U.S. women. The U.S. won the 2010 FIVB Grand Prix, took second at the Montreux Volley Masters and third at the Pan American Cup. The U.S. also was fourth at the 2010 FIVB World Championship.
“The goal is to play our best volleyball in London—obviously with the hope of getting some hardware,” McCutcheon said. “We have a lot of work to do, but fortunately, our team is talented and motivated. I think we’ll have a chance.”
McCutcheon is 46-27 in his two years at the helm of the U.S. women, developing a unit built around both established veterans and young players capable of competing on the international scene. The U.S. squad, which has gone through the transition of new techniques employed by McCutcheon and his staff (which includes sport icon Karch Kiraly), is currently ranked second in the world. Last year, McCutcheon’s group went 28-13—a 10-win improvement over his first season.
“We are pleased that we have been able to work out a win-win solution to allow Hugh to finish his USA Volleyball contract through the 2012 Olympic Games in London,” USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said in a press release. “He has put together a terrific staff working with an extremely talented group of athletes who had remarkable success last season. USA Volleyball appreciates the cooperation of University of Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi and his athletics staff in making this a positive situation for Hugh, his family, USA Volleyball and the Gopher volleyball program.”
Hebert ends his career with a record of 952-392. He spent 15 years at Minnesota. Hebert ranks fourth all time on the Division I women’s volleyball victories list. He is the only coach in Division I women’s volleyball history to ever lead two different programs from the same conference to national semifinal appearances and is one of four coaches to make multiple trips to the national semifinals with two different programs. Hebert previously coached at the University of Illinois. Bush played on Hebert’s 1987 and 1988 Illinois teams that made the national semifinals.
“The hiring of Hugh McCutcheon was made with the understanding that he was the best coach for the long-term for the University of Minnesota,” Maturi said in a press release. “From the beginning, Hugh and I have discussed the importance of his commitment to USA Volleyball and the 2012 Olympics. We are honored that Minnesota’s new head coach will be representing the United States in London. Laura Bush will do an outstanding job as the interim head coach for the 2011 season and we expect our program to compete at the highest level.”
Originally published in May 2011