Pair of Coaches Lead Spikers to Success


    By Andrew Pepper

    Some coaches have become synony-mous with winning, such as Phil Jackson, Joe Torre and Pat Summit. They win championships. But as good as these coaches are, there is one thing in common ? they didn”t do it alone.

    They received constant help from assistant coaches, trainers, players, statisticians and fans. But although they receive assistance, these coaches are the coach, the one coach.

    The situation is similar at BYU. But when it comes to the men”s volleyball team, there is one difference: there”s not one head coach for this team.

    Shawn Patchell and Ryan Millar were appointed co-interim head coaches for the 2007 season after the resignation of former head coach Tom Peterson and have coached the Cougars to a No. 2 national ranking this season.

    The situation could have been awk-ward this season, Millar said. Patchell agrees. Both coaches focus on the team first ? although they understand the curiosity.

    While both coaches are reluctant to talk about the unique coaching situa-tion, the duo remains a successful experiment.

    “It”s not the best scenario to be in-volved with,” athletic director Tom Holmoe said. “But with the circum-stances involving the program, it was the best situation at the time.”

    It might not have been the best sce-nario, but it”s hard to argue with the success this season. The two coaches can boast five national player of the week honors awarded to five different Cougars, a No. 2 national ranking and earning the right to host in the first round of the conference tournament.

    It appears there have been no negative results of the BYU tag team effort, as the Cougars prepare to play in the upcoming MPSF tournament as the second seed. So far, the situation has worked.

    “We asked them, they accepted and things are going pretty well,” Holmoe said. “I think they”ve done a great job leading this team in a positive direc-tion.”

    Patchell and Millar have done well with the team, but Peterson”s squads were always competitive, winning a national championship in 2004. The Cougar success incited a group of MPSF coaches who constantly ques-tioned Peterson”s recruiting practices of foreign players. Weeks before the Cougar championship, the coaches pressured the NCAA to investigate the BYU program.

    The players in question were cleared, but the pressure never was. Two years later, Peterson resigned in August 2006.

    Peterson”s resignation took place before the NCAA produced any par-ticular information concerning an investigation, according to Holmoe, but the untimely resignation left the successful volleyball program in a vulnerable position.

    “At the time we made the move, we didn”t have the time to go out and do a thorough search. We felt we needed someone with that team and Shawn and Ryan were good fits,” Holmoe said. “I put them in a difficult situa-tion, but I didn”t feel it was appropri-ate to appoint one interim head coach.”

    Patchell was coaching at BYU under Peterson for four years before the promotion, while Millar came to BYU expecting to work under Peter-son. After the resignation, the two were asked to coach as a duo for 2007.

    “I felt Shawn and Ryan had been with the team and they knew the players, their strengths and their back-grounds,” Holmoe said. “I thought they could do the best job.”

    Players are accustomed to answering to more than one coach and having two head coaches has not been much different than having just one, said BYU team captain Russell Holmes.

    Many of the duo”s players agree.

    “It”s fine. It”s like a mix. We just learn from both men,” BYU outside hitter Yosleyder Cala said. “I don”t see a problem.”

    The two perspectives have been good for the team, said BYU outside hitter Ivan Perez. Patchell”s myriad of ex-periences coaching teams combines with Millar”s Olympic experience to produce a good blend, including in-ternational careers after their BYU years.

    “It”s kind of an experiment for them and for us too, and it”s been working out,” Perez said. “We”ve been playing well.”

    Playing well is what their players do, but coaching well has held this team together. There is no politicking for position, no pitting players against the other coach. No bad feelings with these two.

    They make it work.

    Patchell and Millar will coach for the remainder of the 2007 season as co-interim head coaches. After the sea-son the athletics department will begin a search for the head coach, a time when off-seasons for both men”s and women”s collegiate volleyball occur simultaneously.

    The search will include Patchell and Millar, who have a head start, but will also open up to other candidates around the nation to ensure the best applicant gets the job. Regardless of the outcome, it would be difficult to dismiss the on-the-job training and success of Patchell or Millar, whether they win a national championship or not.

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