Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pac-12 | UW Assistant Keno Gandara named new head coach for Miami

Long-time Washington assistant uses UCSB connections to land job near his native Puerto Rico

Jose Gandara—known to players and friends as Keno—is the new head volleyball coach at the University of Miami (FL).

Keno Gandara
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Gandara has been an assistant at Washington since 2005, the year the Huskies won the national title. His departure breaks up one of the most stable coaching staffs in Division 1 volleyball.

“I’m excited,” Gandara tells Volleyblog Seattle. “I have mixed feelings about leaving Washington, but I’m making the move for all the right reasons.”

High on the list of reasons is family. Gandara is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has family both in Miami and in the Caribbean. He and his wife, Stephanie Cox, have a young son, and were visiting relatives in Miami just this past Christmas.

Both Gandara and Cox were standout volleyball players at UC Santa Barbara. In January, UCSB’s legendary coach Kathy Gregory stepped down after 38 years leading the Gauchos. Last month, Miami coach Lantagne Welch returned home to Southern California to take over at Santa Barbara. That opened the door at Miami, where the Hurricanes have made four NCAA Tournament appearances in a row.

“I was intrigued by it,” says Gandara. “I liked the direction Miami and the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) are going.”

The Santa Barbara connections continue: Gandara will retain Miami assistant coach Lee Nelson, who was his teammate at UCSB in the 1980s. Washington coach Jim McLaughlin also played at UCSB (several years before Gandara), and was instrumental in helping Gandara become a women’s volleyball coach.

Gandara has been considered a head coach prospect for several years. Cox enjoyed her job as Development Director at the University of Washington Law School, and Gandara considered the UW assistant job “better than most head coaching jobs elsewhere.”

“Jim (McLaughlin) treats his assistants like fellow head coaches,” he says. “He’s built a good dynamic, and as long as I was learning and developing, I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

In fact, says Gandara, he’s turned down other offers, including one just last year. But Miami, which finished 25-6 last season, was too good to pass up.

Keno Gandara and Jim McLaughlin
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
McLaughlin tells Volleyblog Seattle that he’s excited for both Gandara and for Miami.

“Keno did a great job for Washington,” McLaughlin says. “He upgraded our program.”

“I always told him, work hard, do good, and it will create opportunities. This is a great opportunity. Keno will impact a lot of kids’ lives, both in volleyball, and for the long haul.”

At Washington, Gandara’s responsibilities included coaching blocking. Last season, the Huskies led all Division 1 schools in blocks per set. Washington senior Amanda Gil was the nation’s top blocker overall.

“Keno is honestly the most amazing person I have ever met,” Gil said this afternoon from her Bay Area home. “He is genuine, caring and nice. He will give you all his attention, and no one is more supportive of his athletes.”

Miami is already in the middle of its spring training (Washington starts in two weeks), so Gandara will be at practice in Miami on Monday. Washington’s other long-time assistant, Associate Head Coach Leslie (Tuiasosopo) Gabriel, is on maternity leave after the recent birth of her second child. Volunteer Assistant Tom Murphy will temporarily fill Gabriel’s role until she returns.

McLaughlin has not yet named a replacement for Gandara, and expects to take his time.

“My cell phone is ringing off the hook,” he says. “I’m anxious to see who’s interested in the job.”


  1. Best of luck to Keno!

  2. I hope Murph gets the job!

  3. Any current news or rumors on our new assisant coach? Has Jim interviewed anyone yet? Would be good to have the new coach here for spring practices.

    1. Here's an update ...


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