The coaching carousel continues to spin well for top assistants in Division I women’s volleyball as Washington, Arizona State and Kansas State filled their coaching openings in the past week.

Washington promoted longtime assistant Leslie Gabriel.

Arizona State hired USC assistant JJ Van Niel.

And Kansas State hired Washington assistant Jason Mansfield.

All will be college head coaches for the first time.

It continues a trend in which assistants are being hired. The major exception was Keegan Cook leaving Washington for Minnesota, which created the opening for Gabriel.

Other top assistants who have moved into head coaching jobs in the past weeks include San Diego’s Alfee Reft going to UCLA, Pitt’s Lindsey Behonick going to Oregon State, Colorado State promoting Emily Kohan, and Kentucky’s Anders Nelson going to Vanderbilt to start that program from scratch. 

Fresno State also hired an assistant, Leila Rosen of Michigan, who has coached with her husband, Mark, for 24 years. Mark Rosen was fired earlier this month.

Texas A&M tabbed Jamie Morrison, who was not with another program but has been an assistant at many. 

A handful of openings remain, not the least of which are, of course, Michigan, and Loyola Marymount, created when head coach Aaron Mansfield went to Oklahoma, meaning there are now two Cooks in the Big Ten (Keegan at Minnesota and John at Nebraska) and two Mansfields in the Big 12 (Jason at K-State and Aaron at OU). 

New Washington head coach Leslie Gabriel/UW photo

WASHINGTON: Leslie Gabriel, who played at Washington from 1995-98 and has been an assistant there since 2001, first to Jim McLaughlin and then to Keegan Cook, was announced this past Monday.

“It has been a dream of mine to be the head coach here and I am beyond excited to lead the women in this program,” Gabriel said.

Washington, which won the 2005 NCAA title, has been to the national semifinals four other times while Gabriel was with the program (2004, ’06,’ 13, ’20). Gabriels is the fourth woman to be the head coach at Washington and the first since Debbie Buse in 1991.

Washington, plagued by injuries last season, finished 20-11, 12-8 in the Pac-12. The Huskies lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to TCU.

ARIZONA STATE: JJ Van Niel, who spent the past five seasons at USC and three seasons before that at Utah, was announced as the new head coach on Thursday. He has extensive time in the USA national-team gym and also served as a men’s assistant at UC San Diego.

The Sun Devils finished 13-19 this season, 7-13 in the Pac-12. The last time the program had a winning season was 2019 and that’s the only one since 20-15.

Interestingly, Van Niel replaces Sanja Tomasevic, who was the star of the 2005 Washington team. She was let go earlier this month after six seasons. Van Niel is the third assistant hired since Jason Watson left for Arkansas in 2015.

KANSAS STATE: Jason Mansfield, whose resume includes being an assistant at Illinois, Stanford and the past five years at Washington, was announced as the new Wildcats coach on Tuesday.

At Stanford, Mansfield was on staff when the Cardinal won the 2004 NCAA title. He was at Illinois when it went to the 2018 national semifinals, and in the past five years at Washington the Huskies went to the 2020 NCAA semifinals.

K-State finished 15-14 this season, 6-10 in the Big 12. The Wildcats went 3-4 in five-set matches. The program made the 2021 NCAA Tournament after a five-year drought. 

FRESNO STATE: Leisa Rosen was hired on Thursday after 24 years at Michigan, which included a run to the 2012 national semifinals. She previously was an assistant, also to her husband Mark, at Boise State and Northern Michigan. Rosen was a standout player at Ohio State.

Rosen is from Wasilla, Alaska, and also fills an unusual spot. When her husband and his Alaska boyhood friend, Saint Louis coach Kent Miller, were both let go this month, NCAA Division I was without a head coach from Alaska for the first time in 24 years. Correction/update December 30: Alabama coach Rashinda Reed is from Fairbanks, Alaska. 

Fresno finished 7-23 this season, 1-17 in the Mountain West. The person who hired Rose, Fresno senior women’s administrator Carrie Coll, was chair of the NCAA Division I volleyball committee in 2018. Fresno last went to the NCAA Tournament in 2002.

UCLA, SAN DIEGO STAFFERS: Alfree Reft completed his new coaching staff at UCLA with the hiring of Iowa State assistant Jen Malcom, who was at her alma mater for seven seasons, and Amir Lugo-Rodriguez, who spent the past two years at Northwestern after being at Cal.

San Diego’s Jen Petrie, the national coach of the year, replaced Reft with Carlos Moreno. The Brazlian had been at Arizona State since 2017. Moreno was a standout player at BYU, winning a national title in 2004, when he was the AVCA national player of the year.

WHO’S LEFT: Among the Division I head-coach openings are IUPUI, Louisiana-Monroe, Loyola Marymount, Michigan, Montana State, Nicholls, Oral Roberts, Saint Louis, Southern Indiana, Texas A&M-Commerce, UIW, UNC Asheville and UNLV. 


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