"A lot of cheers and smiles" greet announcement of Keegan Cook's hiring
- Keegan Cook replaces Jim McLaughlin as Washington volleyball head coach (Seattle Times)
- New assistant says Washington “in position to win Pac-12title” (April 2013 interview with Keegan Cook)
After a brief search, the University of Washington has named assistant coach Keegan Cook to replace Jim McLaughlin as head volleyball coach. Cook, 29, assumes his first collegiate head job after eight years as an assistant. He spent six seasons at St. Mary’s (Calif.) College and the past two at UW.
Cook shared the news last Friday with Washington’s players. “A lot of cheers and smiles and congratulations,” he said. “That was a special moment. I know I would not be the head coach of the University of Washington if the players weren’t behind me.”
The announcement comes just ten days after Washington confirmed reports that McLaughlin, 54, had abruptly left UW after 14 seasons to become the head coach at Notre Dame. In a January 17 Notre Dame video release, McLaughlin cited family reasons. “My wife, Margaret, went here,” he said. “She’s closer to her family. So, when I’m recruiting, she can see her family.”
A news release said the Washington Athletic Department conducted an “across the country” search, only to discover that “feedback ultimately led right back to the Husky locker room.”
Cook confirmed that Leslie (Tuiasosopo) Gabriel, who did not seek the head position, will stay on as Associate Head Coach. Gabriel, a former UW star who’s been on the coaching staff for 14 seasons, “was the first person I talked to about becoming head coach,” said Cook. “They knew that if they hire Keegan, he’s gonna hire Leslie.”
Cook is from Pleasanton, a suburb east of Oakland, California. He learned volleyball from his sister, Meg, then followed her to St. Mary’s College in the Bay Area. Cook played club volleyball at St. Mary's while earning a degree in mathematics with a minor in religious studies. He parlayed his dual passions for math and volleyball into his first collegiate coaching job, as an assistant to St. Mary’s coach Rob Browning. When Washington assistant Keno Gandara left after the 2012 season to become Miami head coach, Cook was selected to replace him.
At 29, Cook is the same age McLaughlin was in 1990 when he took his first head job as coach of the USC men’s team. Jen Greeny was 34 when she became Washington State head coach. Liz Kritza was 32 when Colorado hired her. Shawn Olmstead, this year’s national Coach of the Year, was also 32 when he took over BYU.
Cook says his first job will be to hire another assistant, something he says he’s “just fired up to do.” He says his voicemail is jammed, his texts and emails are buzzing, and that resumes are already coming in. “Anyone who knows anything about volleyball knows Washington is an amazing place to be,” he says.
Also on the agenda will be setting up summer camps for local kids (“I LOVE summer camps,” he said) and preparing for sand volleyball practices, which begin next week (“This team has a lot of players who LOVE beach volleyball.”)
Coaching changes in collegiate sports can sometimes cause current players to request a transfer to another school, or recruits to have second thoughts. “No one has made that request,” Cook said. “That would be difficult for me. Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with that. I wouldn’t expect that from these women. They play for something far beyond just one person.”