Newly hired McCutcheon says hi, bye for 18 months

Before he joins the Gophers full-time, McCutcheon will coach the U.S. women’s volleyball team in the 2012 Olympics.

Josh Katzenstein

Newly hired Gophers volleyball head coach Hugh McCutcheon visited the Twin Cities this weekend to meet with the team face-to-face for the first time.

The future coach also learned what he can and cannot do next year as he remains the coach of the U.S. womenâÄôs national team, leaving head coaching duties in the interim to assistant coach Laura Bush.

While McCutcheon prepares the national team for a run to the 2012 Olympics, he wonâÄôt be able to recruit and will be limited in the coaching he can do from afar, according to NCAA rules.

âÄúThatâÄôs why having such a capable interim staff and having all of that squared away is such a huge piece of this puzzle,âÄù McCutcheon said. âÄúMy involvement at this stage will be very limited.âÄù

Bush has nine combined years of head coaching experience at Marquette (1999-2001) and Auburn (2002-2007) and has been an assistant with the Gophers since 2008.

Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi, who introduced McCutcheon at Williams Arena during SundayâÄôs menâÄôs basketball game, said he made the hire looking toward the future, so being without the new coach for a year and a half isnâÄôt a big concern. Mike Hebert retired this winter after 15 years at the helm.

âÄúI tried to weigh the advantages of him being our coach for 20 years versus not hiring him and never having him,âÄù Maturi said Saturday. âÄúHe had a commitment to USA volleyball âÄî to the Olympic team âÄî and feels he needs to see it through, and I think itâÄôs exciting that the University of Minnesota coach is going to be coaching the Olympic team.âÄù

Asked about the possibility of an extended stay with Minnesota, McCutcheon said, âÄúIt would be great if we could put some roots down and watch some trees grow.âÄù

McCutcheon plans to fly back to California with his wife and son Monday. The U.S. national team trains in Anaheim.

The new coach had a somewhat trying week before visiting Minnesota. A native of Christchurch, New Zealand, McCutcheon said his mother and friends were in the area when an earthquake struck Tuesday, but added that all were fine.

McCutcheon coached the U.S. menâÄôs national team from 2005-08 before taking over on the womenâÄôs side. He said he had previous offers from colleges, but couldnâÄôt turn away a team that, among other accomplishments, has advanced to the NCAA tournament 12 straight seasons.

âÄúIt just felt right,âÄù he said.