Hebert looks back at 700 career wins

Chesty La Rue

The Minnesota volleyball team travels to Purdue this weekend, as coach Mike Hebert looks for win No. 701.

“Purdue is very similar to Iowa,” Hebert said. “It will be interesting to see how the game on Friday goes.”

The Boilermakers play host to the Hawkeyes on Friday before playing the Gophers on Saturday.

Fresh off win 700, Hebert chooses to look ahead instead of dwelling on his individual accomplishments.

“I don’t remember the numbers and records,” Hebert said. “What I really remember are the particular matches and certain times.”

In his 26th season as a head coach, the memories are just fading afterthoughts.

During his career, Hebert has earned four Big Ten Coach of the Year awards, two trips to the Final Four, nine seasons of 30 or more wins, and yet he still chooses to forget the past and concentrate on the future.

After all, 700 wins and more than 1,000 matches later, do you really expect him to remember number one? Incidentally, it was with Pittsburgh in 1976.

“Honestly, I can’t remember my first victory,” Hebert said. “I am sure if I was to go and look it up I would then be able to remember the match, the players and opponent. But I can’t recall off the top of my head.”

Although many might treasure their first victory, Hebert reflects on his team’s accomplishments by indicating two matches which really stick out in his mind.

The first match out of his mouth was one which earned Hebert his first trip to the Final Four.

It was Dec. 11, 1997, and his Illinois team was in the process of sweeping national-power Nebraska.

“We were up two-games-to none,” Hebert said. “I was so involved in coaching that I wasn’t even thinking about it.

“Then, I can remember looking up at the scoreboard. We were leading 12-5 and that’s when it sank in. We were going to go to the Final Four. That was the first time I allowed myself to think about it.”

The second match that came to Hebert’s mind was against Western Michigan in 1998, another match in the NCAA tournament.

“It was an amazing match,” Hebert said. “We were down 10-6 in the fifth game and I had just called a timeout.

“I was beginning to prepare my, `We’re not out of it yet,’ speech when one of my players reached out and touched me on the shoulder and said, `Don’t worry, it’s in the bag.'”

The team then went out and did indeed wrap up the three-hour plus match.

“It was very emotional,” Hebert said. “The players, the fans, reporters – everybody was spent.”

Although he can’t remember his first coaching win, he does recall his first win as the Gophers coach.

Minnesota opened the 1996 season playing in the San Diego Tournament.

The Gophers lost the first two matches to San Diego and San Diego State before defeating Cal State-Northridge to finish the tournament.

“I really remember that because I was not accustomed to losing,” Hebert said. “Reality began to set in as I realized how far we really needed to go to become successful.

“For a few moments I was probably questioning my decision to leave an established school to rebuild another.”

On his mind now are the Boilermakers on Saturday, and Hebert is just looking for his next win, not any records or any numbers.


Brian Hall covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]