Hebert’s retirement leaves major void

by Lindsay Guentzel

After Athletics Director Joel Maturi fired head football coach Tim Brewster on Oct. 17, Maturi said he was on the hunt for a Tubby Smith-type hire to revitalize the struggling football program and bring success back to campus. It was a statement he would later regret saying, especially after hiring the relatively low-profile Jerry Kill, a choice that fell short of the expectations he set. Now tasked with hiring the replacement for head volleyball coach Mike Hebert, Maturi has another chance to find a nationally-recognized coach. Hebert announced his retirement Saturday, one day after the 12th-ranked Gophers lost to California in the Sweet 16. After 15 years, Hebert leaves behind a 381-125 record and 14 trips to the post-season, including three trips to the Final Four. ThatâÄôs a legacy thatâÄôs a bit tougher to replace than BrewsterâÄôs. âÄúThe next coach is going to have to be someone who can manage a collection of elite level players,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúNot every coach can do that. I think they need to understand that the community and the University and the athletic department expect a high level of performance out of the volleyball program and be prepared to sustain that.âÄù Hebert, who will be around campus until mid-February, said the program and the roster are in the right place for a new leader and heâÄôs confident in MaturiâÄôs ability to find a replacement. âÄúIf Joel wants to talk to me about candidates, IâÄôll be happy to,âÄù he said. âÄúBut there is no role established for me in the process, which is fine for me.âÄù While Hebert may be confident in MaturiâÄôs hiring skills, some volleyball fans are already questioning the athletic directorâÄôs control, hopeful that Hebert will play a role in the decision-making process. âÄúIâÄôm a little bit leery on what [Maturi] might do and if I had my way, IâÄôd like to have Hebert involved if I could,âÄù said Mike Botts, a fan who attends all the teamâÄôs home games, regularly travels and has followed the team since the mid-1980s. âÄúItâÄôs going to be really interesting, no matter what they do. ItâÄôs very important in my eyes. IâÄôm very concerned because IâÄôve seen some of the people [Maturi] has hired.âÄù While Botts said he is confident in the strength of the teamâÄôs roster, he is still worried what the wrong coaching choice might do to a program that means so much to him and his family. âÄúI would love to see us get a coach to take over where Mike left off,âÄù he said. âÄúMinnesota is an extremely successful team and is becoming a well-known volleyball powerhouse. This is a very important program.âÄù Katie Harms, mother of sophomore outside hitter Katherine Harms, said sheâÄôd be more confident in MaturiâÄôs role if she knew Hebert was involved in the search. âÄúHeâÄôs probably one of the greatest volleyball minds out there, from a coaching perspective and a sociological perspective,âÄù she said. âÄúHe is able to read people and get to the heart of the matter. If he wasnâÄôt used a resource, that would be very sad.âÄù She added: âÄúI would hope that the administration calls on a lot of good people that know that sport to help them. The athletes themselves should certainly have a say in whatâÄôs going to happen. They are the ones in the most transition, the ones that are closest to it.âÄù Hebert also had the players on his mind when he made his announcement during a team meeting on Saturday, leaving them with one last motivation heading into the uncertain off-season. âÄúI encouraged them to stay on the same path, in regards to personal growth and learning how to become a team,âÄù he said. âÄúThose are things that I stressed in the fall and there is nothing new that I could say to them now. Just make sure to enjoy and appreciate the journey because thatâÄôs what you are going to remember far beyond any of those victory moments.âÄù