The University of Minnesota named Washington's Keegan Cook its new volleyball coach on Monday, ending months of speculation about who would take over the program following Hugh McCutcheon's decision to resign after leading the Gophers for 11 seasons.
Cook, 37, received a five-year contract. He has been the coach of the Huskies since 2015 and in eight seasons has won four Pac-12 titles, made four trips to the Elite Eight and reached the Final Four following the 2020 season, which was played in April 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season, Washington finished 20-11 and 12-8 in conference play, losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Texas Christian.
But, in a testament to his success at Washington, those 20 wins matched Cook's worst total in eight seasons. He went 198-56 overall and his Huskies won more than 25 matches five times. He was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the 2020 season.
"He has a proven record of success when it comes to recruiting, developing and coaching student-athletes," Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement announcing the hire; an introductory news conference has been scheduled for Friday. "And he knows what it takes to compete for conference and national championships."
Cook also knows about taking over for a highly successful coach. He spent two years as a Washington assistant to Jim McLaughlin, who went to four Final Fours and won a national championship in 2005, before taking over the program.
Before going to Washington, Cook worked for eight years as an assistant at St. Mary's — his alma mater. He also has ties to USA Volleyball and Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB). He was an assistant coach for the U.S. girls U19 team that won gold at the Pan American Cup last summer and he has been a Volleyball Information Supervisor for FIVB.
He has expressed admiration for McCutcheon in the past.
When Cook took over the Huskies in 2015, he told the Seattle Times that he installed a philosophy of "good after good" into his players. It was a philosophy about functioning consistently at a high level that he acknowledged borrowing from McCutcheon.
The two will now work together, as McCutcheon accepted a newly created administrative role with Minnesota as assistant athletic director/sport development coach that will start Jan. 1.
The Gophers' season came to an end last week with a four-set loss to Ohio State in the Sweet 16. They finished 22-9 overall and 15-5 in Big Ten play, the eighth consecutive season in which the Gophers won at least 15 Big Ten matches.
That level of success is one reason the job was highly coveted. If Cook can keep this roster together — there is always the possibility that players will leave via the transfer portal — the Gophers will again be a formidable group.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Taylor Landfair was the Big Ten Player of the Year, while junior setter Melani Shaffmaster and freshman middle blocker Carter Booth were both first-team All-Big Ten. Junior outside hitter Jenna Wenaas has continued to develop into the most versatile player on the court while sophomore Arica Davis became a force on the middle block. Add to that Mckenna Wucherer coming off a season where she battled injuries and still made the conference all-freshman team while tallying 194 kills.
The Gophers have two freshmen signed that are planning to graduate early and attend spring practice starting in January in Calissa Minatee (North Kansas City, Mo.) and Sydney Schnichels (Willmar). Both are considered among the top prospects in the country for the Class of 2023. On top of that, twin sisters Stella and Olivia Swenson of Wayzata have verbally committed to the team for 2024.
This is the eighth full-time head coach in program history, and it comes after two successful eras. McCutcheon led the team from 2012 to 2022 after Mike Hebert ran the program from 1996 to 2010. (Laura Bush served as interim coach in 2011.) The Gophers have made the NCAA tournament in 25 of the past 27 seasons.