Jim McLaughlin took over the Washington volleyball program in 2001 and over the next fourteen seasons, took the Huskies to the highest pinnacle and produced a national contender year-in and year-out, turning Washington into one of the nation's elite.
The McLaughlin era produced one National Championship, four Final Four appearances, three national players of the year, three Pac-12 Conference titles, and 16 players that combined for 34 AVCA All-America awards. Nine times a Husky earned Academic All-America and Husky players combined for 63 All-Pac-12 awards under McLaughlin.
The only head coach ever to win NCAA titles in both men’s and women’s volleyball, McLaughlin has been recognized by his peers as the 2004 AVCA National Coach of the Year, and Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2013. The four Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors are tied for second-most in conference history, behind the five of former UCLA coach Andy Banachowski.
McLaughlin took over the Washington program in 2001, inheriting a team that finished last in the Pac-10 standings in 2000. Within just five seasons, he transformed the Huskies from worst to first, not just in the Pac-10 but in the nation, as Washington captured the 2005 NCAA title in McLaughlin’s fifth season.
The Huskies qualified for 13-straight NCAA tournaments from 2002 to 2014 under McLaughlin, advancing to the Final Four on four occasions, with seven Elite Eight and nine Sweet 16 appearances. Washington finished first or second in the loaded Pac-12 eight times during his tenure.
McLaughlin’s coaching philosophy stressed a development of an overall skillset, and that resulted in some of the NCAA’s most decorated players during his years at UW. Outside hitter Krista Vansant (2013 and 2014) and setter Courtney Thompson (2005) each won the Honda Award for the top player in the sport, Vansant winning back-to-back honors. Vansant also took home AVCA National Player of the Year honors in 2013. Volleyball Magazine named outside hitter Sanja Tomasevic its Player of the Year in 2005, and twice named libero Tamari Miyashiro the National Defensive Player of the Year.
The influence McLaughlin had on the sport of volleyball in Seattle was put on display in the fall of 2013, when Seattle hosted the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship for the first time in history. The Huskies delivered by reaching the Final Four for the first time since 2006, playing the semifinals in front of a sold out KeyArena holding nearly 15,000 fans.
Washington ranked in the AVCA Top-25 in every poll since week one of 2003, and over his final 11 years, UW has been in the Top-10 in 164 out of a possible 175 coaches polls. The Huskies achieved the No. 1 national ranking in 2004, 2005, and 2013, and the No. 2 ranking in 2006, 2011, 2012, and 2014.
Washington's presence on the national team also developed under McLaughlin. The summer of 2012 saw the Husky program achieve another major milestone, as former Honda Award winner Courtney Thompson and three-time All-American Tamari Miyashiro became the first Husky U.S. Olympians in volleyball as they helped Team USA win the silver medal at the London Games. They were joined in the Olympics by 2006 letterwinner Janine Sandell, who competed for Great Britain. Washington was one of four programs that had two players on the U.S. Women's Olympic Team. In 2013, another Husky All-American, setter Jenna Hagglund, enjoyed a breakout year with Team USA, making four international rosters and winning three medals.
Washington Through The Years Under McLaughlin
McLaughlin's final season in 2014 was another record-setting campaign, as Washington completed consecutive 30-win seasons for the first time in program history, going 31-3 and 18-2 in Pac-12 play to finish second by one game to Stanford. The Huskies opened the year with 25 consecutive wins, setting another program record. The Dawgs gave No. 1 Stanford its first loss of the year in a late season showdown on Nov. 26 in front of a Pac-12 record home crowd of 8,646 fans. Washington matched its program-high with the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA tourney, but was upset in the round of 16 at home against Nebraska.
Krista Vansant wrapped up her storied career in 2014 with a second straight Honda Award for volleyball, along with her second Pac-12 Player of the Year honor, an ESPNW National Player of the Year recognition, as well as Capital One Academic All-American of the Year honors and Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year status. Cassie Strickland also won Pac-12 Libero of the Year and Kaleigh Nelson and Lianna Sybeldon were named Third Team All-Americans.
The 2013 season was a year of huge expectations, and huge accomplishments for the Washington program. With Seattle preparing to host the Final Four for the first time ever, the pressure was on the Huskies to reach the Final Four and play for a title in their hometown. The Dawgs came through with one of the best seasons in school history, going 30-3, winning the program’s third Pac-12 title, and reaching the Final Four for the first time since 2006.
Washington, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, advanced to the Final Four in 2013 thanks to one of the best matches in school history, as UW rallied back from an 0-2 deficit against No. 6 USC on the Trojans’ home court, and saved two match points to win 17-15 in the fifth set. The Huskies would fall in the NCAA semis against eventual champion Penn State, ending an historic season in front of a sold out KeyArena in Seattle.
With an 18-2 conference record, the Huskies captured their first Pac-12 title since 2005. Krista Vansant took home a “triple crown” of postseason honors, as she was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year, then the AVCA National Player of the Year, and finally the Honda Award Winner for volleyball. She was an AVCA First Team All-American, and junior Kaleigh Nelson earned All-America Third Team honors while senior Jenna Orlandini was an All-America honorable mention. McLaughlin won his fourth Pac-12 Coach of the Year honor in 2013 as well.
The 2012 Huskies proved to be one of the most resilient groups in McLaughlin’s tenure, as the Huskies had four wins in matches where they faced match points, including an epic five-set win over Hawaii in the second round of the NCAA tournament that sent them on to the Round of 16 for the seventh time under McLaughlin. The Huskies ended the season in that round, finishing with a 25-7 record and a 14-6 mark in league play. Sophomore Krista Vansant was named to the All-America Second Team, her first All-America honor. The Huskies also led the NCAA in blocks with 3.36 per set and senior Amanda Gil was the individual NCAA leader with 1.82 blocks per set.
Washington reached the NCAA tourney for the 10th year in a row in 2011, losing a five set heartbreaker on the road in the second round. Bianca Rowland capped her career with an AVCA Second Team All-America honor, becoming the third middle blocker to earn All-America honors under McLaughlin since 2006. And the Huskies succeeded while a freshman shouldered the offensive load. Krista Vansant led the team in kills en route to Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors, the second for a Husky under McLaughlin.
In 2010, the Huskies reached their ninth consecutive NCAA tournament and played their best volleyball in the postseason. Washington knocked off three straight Top-25 teams to reach the NCAA Regional Final for the sixth time in the past eight years. The Huskies swept No. 23 Michigan and No. 7 Hawaii to make the Sweet-16 then upset No. 3 Nebraska in four sets before falling to eventual finalist No. 4 Cal. Senior outside hitters Kindra Carlson and Becky Perry closed their careers as AVCA Second Team All-Americans, and Bianca Rowland was honorable mention. The Dawgs finished sixth in the final AVCA rankings.
The 2009 season saw UW ranked as high as No. 3 in the country for much of the season. The Huskies were Pac-10 runners-up with a 13-5 mark, and finished 24-6 overall. The Huskies earned a No. 6-seed in the NCAA tourney but were upset at Colorado State in the second round. Still, Washington earned numerous postseason accolades, including AVCA All-American Second Team honors for junior Kindra Carlson and senior Tamari Miyashiro, a Third Team award for junior Jenna Hagglund, and honorable mention for sophomore Bianca Rowland.
One of McLaughlin's most impressive coaching jobs was the 2008 season, as the Huskies were expected to finally have a down year by their lofty standards, but after being voted No. 5 in the preseason Pac-10 poll, Washington rolled to a 27-5 record and finished second in the conference with a 15-3 mark. The Huskies lost a heartbreaking five-setter to Nebraska in the Elite Eight, leaving UW two points short of another Final Four. The Huskies ended the season ranked fifth by the AVCA. Four Huskies earned All-America honors in 2008, including the third honor for senior middle blocker Jessica Swarbrick, and second for Miyashiro, who was named Volleyball Magazine National Defensive Player of the Year for the second-straight season. Hagglund and sophomore Becky Perry scored their first All-America honors as well.
In 2007, the Huskies compiled an impressive 27-4 record, marking the team's third straight 25+ win season. Washington advanced to the second round of NCAA action, but was upset by Brigham Young, 3-2, at home, breaking the Huskies' 12-match postseason home winning streak. Three Huskies earned AVCA All-America accolades, with Christal Morrison taking her second straight first-team honors, Jessica Swarbrick earning second-team accolades and Tamari Miyashiro taking a third-team pick. Morrison earned her fourth All-Pac-10 first-team honor, and was joined by Stevie Mussie, Swarbrick and Miyashiro.
In 2006, Washington advanced to its third consecutive NCAA Final Four where it fell to Stanford in the national semifinal to finish the year with a 29-5 record. Four players picked up AVCA All-America honors, including first-team selections Christal Morrison and Courtney Thompson, second-team honoree Alesha Deesing and third team pick Jessica Swarbrick, while Morrison and Thompson were also selected to the ASICS/Volleyball Magazine All-America first team. Thompson was once again a finalist for the Honda Broderick Award, which she won the previous year, and earned her third Academic All-America award. Morrison was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year, the second-straight year a Husky won the honor. Thompson has since gone on to earn a starting setter spot on Team USA and Morrison stars on the AVP pro beach volleyball tour.
The 2005 season was one for the record books as the Huskies finished the season with a 32-1 record and cruised through the postseason, winning all six matches by 3-0 scores, an NCAA record, to win the national title, sweeping No. 1-seeded Nebraska in straight sets in the final. The national championship marked the second for McLaughlin, who previously led the 1990 USC men to the national title. McLaughlin was named the 2005 Pac-10 Coach of the Year after leading the Huskies to the Pac-10 title, while four Huskies earned All-America honors, including first team selections Thompson and Sanja Tomasevic, second team pick Candace Lee and third team honoree Morrison. Tomasevic became Washington's first Pac-10 Player of the Year, while Thompson won the Honda Broderick Award. Morrison was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championships.
The entire 2005 squad was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 2010.
In 2004, the Huskies made history, capturing the program's first Pac-10 title and advancing to the national semifinal. Washington opened the season with 22 victories and the Seattle community rallied around the team. UW pulled nearly 42,000 fans through its doors in 13 home dates for the nation's fifth-highest attendance average and set a then-school record on Oct. 23 when 5,712 fans came out to see the Huskies defeat Stanford. McLaughlin was named the National Coach of the Year and received the Pacific Region and Pac-10 Coach of the Year awards. Three Huskies earned All-America honors, including Thompson, Morrison and Lee. Morrison became the first freshman in UW history to become an All-American and the first Husky to be named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
In 2003, McLaughlin led the Huskies to a fifth-place finish in the Pac-10 (10-8) before peaking in the postseason and defeating Utah, Northwestern and Stanford in the NCAA tournament to advance to the quarterfinals. Washington lost a five-game heartbreaker to Minnesota in the Elite Eight match to tie for its best NCAA finish in the program's history to that point. Finishing with a 23-9 record, the Dawgs received multiple honors and awards, highlighted by Sanja Tomasevic being named a second-team All-American. Washington also had five athletes named to Pac-10 All-Conference teams, including Tomasevic to the first team, Kara Bjorklund, Myhre and Lee to the honorable mention team and Thompson to the all-freshman team.
In 2002, Jim McLaughlin earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors after leading the squad to its best finish in the league in five seasons and its seventh NCAA appearance. McLaughlin also helped develop Washington's first All-American since 1997 with first-team selection Paige Benjamin. That season, the Huskies finished the year with a 20-11 record and a 9-9 mark in the Pac-10, which saw four of its teams advance to the Elite Eight. The team's 20 wins marked just the fifth time the Huskies had posted 20 or more wins since becoming a NCAA sponsored sport in 1981. Washington also collected numerous awards and accolades, highlighted by Benjamin's first team All-America selection and her second team Academic All-America selection. The Huskies also had two first team all-conference picks and placed one athlete on the Pac-10 All-Freshman team. In his first year at UW, McLaughlin led the Huskies to an 11-16 record and a 4-14 mark in the Pac-10. The team's 11 wins in 2001 were the most for the program since 1997, and six players received Pac-10 All-Academic honors.
Prior to Washington
Before arriving at Washington, McLaughlin spent four seasons at Kansas State (1997-2000), compiling an 82-43 record and advancing to the NCAA tournament all four years. Overall, two Wildcats earned All-America honors, seven were named to the All-Big 12 first team and 15 garnered first-team academic all-conference accolades with McLaughlin at the helm. In 2000, he coached KSU to a 22-9 record, a program-best No. 16 national ranking and its first trip to the NCAA Sweet 16. The Wildcats also placed second in the Big 12 Conference, the school's best finish, behind eventual national champion Nebraska. In 1999, McLaughlin's squad posted its fifth consecutive season with 19 or more victories, including five wins over ranked opponents. Kansas State also tallied a school-record 14 conference victories, earning McLaughlin the 1999 Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year award. In 1998, Kansas State won its first NCAA tournament victory since 1996 with a 3-0 victory over Georgetown. His first team at KSU in 1997 placed sixth in the Big 12, but still managed to reach the 20-win plateau, at 20-13 overall.
Before he was hired at Kansas State on April 16, 1997, McLaughlin spent one season as an assistant women's coach at the University of Notre Dame under head coach Debbie Brown. That year, the Irish (22-12) went unbeaten in conference play, earning the Big East Conference regular season and tournament titles, before bowing out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Prior to his one-year stint at Notre Dame, McLaughlin was the head men's coach at USC for seven seasons, leading the Trojans to the NCAA title in 1990 (his first season as head coach) and a runner-up finish in 1991. While at USC, McLaughlin's teams went 142-75 (.654) and were ranked in the top 10 five times. Fifteen players earned All-America accolades, led by two-time National Player of the Year, Bryan Ivie. Ivie, along with teammates Dan Greenbaum (setter) and Nick Becker (outside hitter) later went on to earn a bronze medal in Barcelona, Spain, as members of the 1992 U.S. Men's Olympic squad.
In 1990, McLaughlin's first season at USC, the Trojans were picked fifth and seventh respectively in the two preseason polls, returning just two starters and no seniors. McLaughlin, however, overcame any freshman jitters as USC won the school's fourth NCAA title with a four-game victory over Long Beach State, and finished 26-7 overall. With the win in the championship match, McLaughlin joined Pepperdine's Rod Wilde as the only rookie coach to win an NCAA men's volleyball title.
A year later, USC entered the 1991 season with a No. 1 ranking and held that spot all season. McLaughlin's Trojans won 34 of 36 matches and lost just 21 games. The team also rattled off a school-record 30-match win streak, which included a perfect 16-0 record in conference play, before Long Beach State avenged its 1990 NCAA loss, with its own four-game victory in the championship match. In 1993 and 1994, McLaughlin led the Trojans to back-to-back winning records.
The 1993 squad won five of its final seven matches to finish 18-12 overall, while earning a No. 7 ranking and a spot in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Tournament. The 1994 USC team jumped off to a 10-0 start, elevating to a No. 2 ranking, before placing second in the MPSF Pacific Division with a 13-5 mark, and finishing out the season with an overall record of 23-8. In 1995 and 1996, the Trojans remained among the nation's elite, finishing fourth and fifth in the powerful MPSF and ranking 11th and 13th nationally.
Playing Career and Coaching Beginnings
McLaughlin's volleyball career began as an elite setter. After leading Santa Monica High School to the CIF Southern Sectional title in 1979, McLaughlin played two seasons at Santa Monica Junior College (1980-81), which won the 1981 California Junior College Championship. A member of the 1981 U.S. World University Games team, he earned first team all-state honors and was named SMC's Athlete of the Year. In 1982, McLaughlin transferred to UC Santa Barbara (1982-83), where he was the Gauchos' starting setter for two seasons, earning honorable mention All-America honors as a senior. While finishing his bachelor's degree in film studies and economics, the 1985 graduate served as a student assistant coach for both the UCSB men's and women's squads, under legendary coaches Kathy Gregory and Ken Preston. He also captained the 1985 U.S. World University Games team and was an USVBA All-American.
McLaughlin's first full-time college coaching job took him to Pepperdine University (1986-89), where he helped coach the Waves to a combined record of 74-41 and the 1986 NCAA men's title. At Pepperdine, McLaughlin got the benefits of working with two of the best coaches in the nation, alongside Wilde, an assistant with the 1996 and 2000 men's U.S. Olympic teams, and Marv Dunphy, the head coach of the 1988 gold medal-winning U.S. men's squad. The Malibu, Calif., native also has had experience coaching on the international level as a three-time head coach at the World University Games (1991, 1993, 1995), in addition to being the head coach of the 1991 Pan-Am team and a consultant for the men's U.S. Olympic teams in 1992 and 1996. He also served as the women's national team advisor in the 2010 Montreux Volley Masters tournament, a squad that featured a trio of Husky alumni. McLaughlin is married to the former Margaret Jarc, a four-year soccer monogram winner at the University of Notre Dame. The couple has three daughters: Megan (15), Molly (13), and Marit (7).
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