Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Keegan Cook to replace Jim McLaughlin as Washington volleyball head coach

"A lot of cheers and smiles" greet announcement of Keegan Cook's hiring

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New Washington head coach Keegan Cook with setter Katy Beals
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

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.”


  1. Congratulations to Keegan, the timing an opportunity of a lifetime. Hopefully someday after Leslie"s kids are older, she will get her deserved chance.

  2. Always good to hire in house to keep the synergy going. With the loss of Krista I don't see us having that go to hitter we've had for 4 years. Stanford will walk away with the PAC-12 next season considering they lost very little to graduation. I'd pick Udub for second or third place unless somebody from last years Freshmen class really steps up. Will be interesting to see if he gets rid of the 6-2.

    1. I think one more year of the 6-2 and then 5-1 after Katy graduates.

    2. And even that depends on her recovery from the knee surgery.

  3. It will be odd to say "Coach Cook" and not mean the one at Nebraska. People in the Bay Area also have a lot of positive things to say about Coach Cook... not only from his work at Saint Mary's and U-Dub but from his family's long-standing ties to Bay Area club volleyball. One night in Berkeley before a Stanford-Cal match a few years ago, I ran into Coach Cook's Mom at dinner, and she told me to tell Coach Dunning hello. When I did, he smiled and said that they went way back to his club coaching days, which ended 30 years ago this spring.


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