Gold-medal winning coach heading to Minnesota
Hugh McCutcheon, coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. men's volleyball team in Beijing and current coach of the women's national team, has accepted the job as head coach of the women's team at Minnesota.
The timing of a transition has not been set, and McCutcheon said Thursday it is unclear even to him if he will remain with the U.S. women through the 2012 Olympics in London.
''I don't know the answer to that,'' McCutcheon told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. ''The first part of the discussion was to figure out if this was the right fit in terms of the job. The next phase is to figure out what the right timetable is for that. It's obviously a complex decision. We want to try to find a solution that will allow us to give the best to both sides, but we don't want to get into something that will hurt one or the other.''
McCutcheon is married to Elisabeth Bachman, who played for the U.S. team in the 2004 Olympics and is from the Minneapolis area. The couple are the parents of an 8-month-old son.
He said the decision to coach the Gophers was both personal and professional.
''The idea of getting involved with a school that I think was really in line with what we believe are our core values, we just thought it was a really good fit,'' McCutcheon said. ''Clearly it's been a successful program and we hope we can continue that. It wasn't just about the personal side of things. I think professionally what Minnesota afforded us was pretty unique and good for us.''
McCutcheon guided the U.S. men to the gold medal in Beijing amid tragedy after Bachman's father was fatally stabbed at a historic Chinese attraction just before the opening ceremonies. One of the more memorable images from the games was McCutcheon burying his head in his hands in tears when the men defeated top-ranked Brazil in the gold medal match.
McCutcheon, a native of New Zealand, took over the women's national team when Jenny Lang Ping resigned shortly after the Beijing Games. Alan Knipe took a leave of absence from Long Beach State to become the new head coach of the men's national team.
''We always want the best for our employees and we are trying to develop a win-win situation that works for USA Volleyball, Hugh and his family and the University of Minnesota,'' USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said in a statement. ''We value very much Hugh as a coach of our U.S. Women's National Team and want what is best for him in the long-term. Hugh has been remarkably successful and we hope that success can continue. But ultimately, we want what is best for Hugh.''
Mike Hebert retired as Minnesota's head coach in December after going 381-125 in 15 seasons with the Gophers, leading the team to three NCAA Final Four appearances.
''When Mike announced his retirement we knew that we would have huge shoes to fill. We wanted to make sure we hired someone who could continue to keep Golden Gopher volleyball among the best programs in the nation. With the hiring of Hugh McCutcheon, we feel like we accomplished that goal in a big way,'' Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi said.
Minnesota assistant coach Laura Bush will lead the Gophers on an interim basis.
McCutcheon spoke to his new players via Skype on Wednesday.
''I'm really excited,'' said sophomore setter Mia Tabberson. ''The opportunity for a new coach is always a little nerve-racking at first, but he obviously has great credentials and will be a really great coach and I just can't wait for him to get here, whenever he does.''