Hebert’s volleyball coaching success felt at Minnesota

After 13 seasons at Illinois, Mike Hebert came to the U in 1996, where he has seen positives.

Jeff Barthel

In assembling a volleyball team, or any team, one must have good players.

With two All-Americans and a recruiting class ranked fourth in the nation, it’s safe to assume the Gophers definitely have the personnel.

But a great team must also have team chemistry. This quality, however, is tough to support with tangible facts.

Mastering a group of 14 players, complying with the egos of 14 student-athletes and getting them to develop a bond that helps the team play with a sense of togetherness is the job of a head coach.

And Minnesota volleyball coach Mike Hebert has a good grasp of building a team from scratch.

“He gets a bang out of every aspect in program development,” associate head coach Brian Heffernan said. “He’s a self-proclaimed program builder.”

This seems to be true.

Hebert took the reins at Minnesota after 13 years of coaching at the University of Illinois.

His successful coaching there brought the Illini to postseason play in 11 of his 13 years as coach. This includes a final season (1995) in which the Illini went 24-9 (12-8 Big Ten) and made an appearance in the NCAA Mideast regional.

“I wanted to leave on my own terms,” Hebert said. “Talking with my wife, it seemed like a better opportunity for me.”

Hebert and his wife Sherrie moved to Minnesota when he signed on in 1996 to coach the Gophers.

In his inaugural season at the helm for Minnesota, Hebert coached his team to a 24-11 overall record. He helped a struggling Gophers program pick up 11 more wins than their previous season.

In 1995, Minnesota was 13-17 and only 7-13 in Big Ten play.

This season, his Gophers have six Big Ten wins in only eight matches.

Even more impressive is Hebert’s 2002 team bringing home Minnesota’s first-ever Big Ten title.

“Last season, we were able to get on an early run and ride it through the season,” Hebert said.

He then went on to describe his current players and the potential they have to be successful.

“It’s a maturation process,” Hebert said. “It’s basically the same group of kids.”

In regard to this season, Hebert is not one to talk of accomplishments such as wins or statistical domination. He’d rather talk of his passion for coaching and the players he has coached.

Hebert has coached 15 All-Americans in his 27-year career, five of whom are Gophers.

He talks passionately about coaching senior opposite hitter Cassie Busse.

“It’s been extremely gratifying,” Hebert said.

“She knew very little when she started,” Hebert said. “She brought all the pieces; we’ve just assembled the product.”

One of three team captains, the 6-foot-2-inch native of Prior Lake, Minn., is grateful for Hebert’s tutelage.

“He taught me to bring out skills that were really raw and unrefined,” Busse said.

Hebert has also enjoyed coaching Minnesota’s other current All-American, libero Paula Gentil.

“I’m the lucky recipient of a mature ball control player,” Hebert said.

Though his team began this year with a 0-4 record, he’s got his players in solid form now.

Hebert has guided his group to win six Big Ten matches in a row, and has a 13-7 record in his eighth season as coach.