A couple of weeks after Rich Feller announced his retirement from being the head coach of Cal Volleyball, Cal Athletics have decided to lift the word “interim” from the title of “interim head coach” Matt McShane. McShane will be the 6th head coach in program history. He will look to return the program to the peak of the 2007-2010 when the Bears had a National Player of the Year in Carli Lloyd (2016 Calympian) and two Final Four appearances (2007, 2010).
An assistant under Feller during the highly successful Cal Volleyball run from 2005 to 2009 (including the program’s first Final Four appearance in 2007...and one year before the championship final appearance in 2010), McShane has head coaching experience at Air Force from 2010 to 2016. He returned to the Cal program last year as the Associate Head Coach. McShane has also had assistant coaching experiences (other than at Cal) at Utah, New Mexico, BYU, and on the US National Team (in 1996, serving with Rich Feller). The UC Santa Barbara alum was a member of their men’s NCAA runner-up teams back in 1974 and 1975.
Given the timing of the late announcement by Feller on his retirement, I will speculate that McShane has been his appointed heir-apparent since coming back to Cal. For comparison, Stanford Volleyball will also have a new head coach next year. Former Stanford head coach John Dunning announced his retirement in January (right after Stanford won the NCAA national championship). Stanford was able to replace Dunning with former Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly by the end of January. Certainly, it is much easier to find a new head coach with half an year to go before the start of the season versus just the summer.
The strategy to replace from within has been a very common one for Cal Athletics. An year ago, Walter Chun stepped up to take over Cal Men’s Golf over from Steve Desimone. More well known is of course how Wyking Jones took over Cal Men’s Basketball from Cuonzo Martin. Other than the very well covered replacement of the new Cal Football head coach, the only other recent (in the last year) replacement from the outside was Cal Women’s Water Polo, which unfortunately also involved a lawsuit of wrongful termination from the outgoing coach Rich Corso. I would not be surprised that the newly vacant Cal Men’s Gymnastics head coaching job will also go the internal route to J.T. Okada (Assistant Coach for the past few seasons).
As for Cal Volleyball, the program has missed the NCAA tournament for the past few seasons due largely to injuries/health concerns to some top recruits (Savannah Rennie and Ashten Smith-Gooden). 2017 will be a rebuilding year of sort as the Golden Bears will need to find a new setter (offensive QB) and libero (defensive QB) with the graduation of Alyssa Jansen and Maddy Kerr, respectively. Bears will also need to replace the most efficient hitter on the team in the also graduating middle blocker in Jenelle Jordan. On the other hand, this situation present great opportunities for a talented freshman class to step up.
Coach McShane is certainly familiar with the returning players and should have been involved with the recruitment of the newcomers. The program continuity would be even more of an asset if Cal Volleyball has had some more recent success. Nonetheless, a big bounce back year for Cal Volleyball could always be just an year away.