Laura Bush, the executive director of the USA Volleyball North Country region, was an All-American for Mike Hebert at Illinois when she played there for 1987-90. Bush is a former head coach at Marquette and Auburn and also served as an assistant to Hebert at Minnesota and then as interim head coach for a year after he retired.
By Laura Bush for VolleyballMag.com
It is not so much that I do not know what to write. It is more so that there is much to write and none if it will truly capture Mike Hebert.
His gold filament threads through the entire volleyball community. Six degrees from Kevin Bacon has nothing compared to all of us being one or two degrees from Mike. I am a fortunate one: He has been less than one degree removed from me since I was 17 years old.
While he was definitely an architect of volleyball, he resonates loudly with me as a developer of people.
Mike was a curiosity to me. To know him better while playing for him at Illinois, I decided on many occasions to ride in the mini-van he was driving when we traveled by plane and then needed rental vehicles to arrive at our final destination.
He would allow us, his mini-van passengers, to ask him anything. More importantly, he answered everything. He did not avoid the truth with us whether it be in the mini-van with four of my teammates, or one-on-one, player-coach meetings that he mostly requested but as I matured I requested them as well.
When I needed to know something during college, I went to Mike. He served in this capacity for a lot of the volleyball community. Just ask Mike because Mike knows volleyball, Mike knows how to build a program, Mike knows people. And by this I mean hearts and minds.
And we did ask. And he did provide.
There were so many nuggets, morsels, stories and laughs for this college student. It was a lot to chew on about how to better navigate life. He mattered to all of us and he did not shy away from the responsibility of growing the game, which ultimately meant growing people.
Mike also grew.
As one of his assistant coaches at Minnesota (2008-2010), I had a front-row seat to learn and to do my mental compare/contrast of Mike at Illinois versus Mike at Minnesota.
Though never an uptight person, Mike was more mellow at Minnesota. His reaction which was a lack of reaction, when the mess hit the fan was new to me. His one-on-one, player-coach meetings did not seem to be as direct as I had remembered some of my own. His peace around the whole program was felt. I never considered that his Parkinson’s might be the reason for his change and I still don’t. His insight of the game, his wisdom with the team, his mentoring of the staff was on point. He continued to not take himself overly seriously. His wit along with his story would keep me laughing.
I have missed those moments of uproarious laughter with him.
Any story about Mike should also include Sherry, his wife, Becky and Hillary, his two daughters, his volleyball buddies, and everyone who supported his teams.
The Heberts included everyone.
Their home was always open; their hearts were freely giving and their approach to life embraced Laissez les bons temps rouler. They both dived into the communities in which they lived and would meticulously and doggedly create a support system for volleyball like the Networkers at Illinois and the Gold Diggers at Minnesota. Everyone could be a part of Mike’s programs and that feeling reverberated through the team, the athletic department, parts of the university, and the volleyball community.
It was one big volleyball hug.
Mike operated in rare air. How lucky we are to have had such an advocate, generous spirit, and mastermind in the sport that we love. Your legacy will live on, Mike. You have provided a light to so many of our paths.