Doyon Named New Volleyball Coach at Montana

By Joel Carlson

Win 21 conference championships, make six national semifinal appearances and claim the 1995 national title, as Terry Pettit did at Nebraska while coaching the Cornhuskers from 1977-99, and you can’t help but become the E.F. Hutton of the volleyball coaching world.

So when Pettit, who coached Nebraska to a 23-year record of 694-148, took time out of his retirement in Fort Collins, Colo., to weigh in on Montana’s decision to hire former Utah assistant Brian Doyon as its new volleyball coach this week, people in volleyball will tend to listen and take notice.

“I think Brian is an excellent hire for Montana, because he’s a great fit, and that’s what coaching is all about,” said Pettit, a two-time AVCA national coach of the year who turned the state of Nebraska into a volleyball hotbed.

Brian Doyon UM Volleyball

Brian Doyon named Head Volleyball Coach at the University of Montana. January 28,2015.

“He’s a very competitive, bright coach who brings a lot of energy to everything he does, which makes him an exceptional recruiter. He’ll work hard to change the culture of the volleyball program at Montana.”

Doyon, who was in Missoula Thursday and Friday for on-campus interviews, was hired this week to replace Jerry Wagner, who stepped down in November after nine seasons and a record of 102-147.

Doyon becomes just the fourth coach at Montana since 1978 — a progression that began with Dick Scott (1978-99) and continued through Nikki Best (2000-05) and Wagner (2006-13).

The new coach’s job: return a program that has had just four winning seasons since 1994 and has been a nonfactor in the Big Sky Conference for two decades back to the prominence it enjoyed in the 80s and early 90s, when 20-win seasons came with regularity.

“That was one of the draws of this job,” said Doyon. “There has been success in the program in the past, and we can have success again in the future.”

Doyon’s hire comes at the right time for a volleyball rebirth at Montana.

The arrival of coach Bob Stitt has energized the Griz football program. Montana has a Big Sky Conference champion soccer team, plus men’s and women’s tennis squads. The school’s basketball teams are — again — near the top of the league standings. And coach Jamie Pinkerton’s softball team plays its long-anticipated first games in program history next week.

Add in the construction of Montana’s student-athlete academic center and the conceptual drawings of the new Washington-Grizzly Champions Center, and Doyon saw the ideal scenario to pursue as his first collegiate head coaching job.

“I was attracted to the spirit of the school and the success of the other programs, because when athletes see other teams doing well, that can be infectious. The camaraderie that’s shared through athletics can create an amazing environment for student-athletes to be in,” he said.

“Along with the investments the school is making toward developing student-athletes, it’s a great situation to come into. I’m very excited about it, and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity. I’m looking forward to getting started, getting the team together and seeing what the future holds.”

Doyon, who will be joined in Missoula by his wife, Kate, and infant son, James, was one of five dozen applicants for the position, which came open after Montana struggled to a 6-23 finish last fall, its second 6-23 record in three years and its sixth time winning eight or fewer matches since 2001.

Three finalists were on campus for interviews last week, and Doyon rose to the top after presenting to different constituencies his vision for the program. Refreshing water to parched audiences hoping for a return to relevancy. Doyon was offered the job Sunday.

Lady Griz VB

Photo by William Munoz forMakeItMissoula.com

“We had a very high-quality applicant pool, so for Brian to come out on top speaks volumes of his skills and knowledge of the game,” said UM senior associate AD Jean Gee, who chaired the search committee. “As the interview with Brian progressed, I started wishing the season could start tomorrow.

“We’re pleased to welcome Brian and his family to Missoula, the university and the department, and we’re excited for Griz Nation to see firsthand Brian’s quality coaching and high character.”

Doyon spent the last six years as Utah’s recruiting coordinator on coach Beth Launiere’s staff. Playing in the Pac-12, the nation’s deepest volleyball conference, the Utes won 21 matches in 2013 and went 20-13 last fall. Both years Utah advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Those teams were led by a freshman class from 2011 that was ranked 20th in the nation by prepvolleyball.com, a group compiled by Doyon as chief recruiter. Three other classes earned Highest Honorable Mention honors by prepvolleyball.com in Doyon’s six years with the Utes.

Utah, which finished the season No. 18 in the nation, had six victories in 2014 over ranked teams and took then-No. 11 Nebraska to five sets in the second round of the NCAA tournament in a match played on the Cornhuskers’ home court in Lincoln.

It was the 12th NCAA tournament appearance for Utah under Launiere, who has 491 wins in 25 seasons coaching the Utes.

“It was a phenomenal experience and huge asset to work under a legend like Beth,” said Doyon, who also coached the Utah men’s club team from 2009-11. “The way she runs a program and does things is something I’ll emulate in my program for sure.

“She gave me a lot of opportunities to do things on my own, and that prepared me for this next career opportunity to lead the Griz to great things.”

Launiere may have done too good of a job preparing her assistants to become leaders of their own programs, because both assistant coach offices are now empty.

She knew Doyon and JJ Riley, who was an assistant in the program the last three seasons, were ready to become head coaches. But getting hired within a week of one another? And both hired in the Big Sky? At rival schools? Riley was hired last week by Montana State.

“I give my assistants a lot of responsibility, so I think Brian and JJ are absolutely both ready. It will be fun to watch their careers develop. They are both good coaches, but they are different. I think both universities found a good fit,” said Launiere.

“Brian is not only a very good volleyball coach, he’s a well-rounded person, and he works hard at everything he does. He’s going to do a great job at Montana, because he’s a great volleyball coach and an even better person.”

Fittingly, Montana and Montana State have an all-time series record of 53-52, with the Grizzlies holding a one-win advantage after dominating the series the last nine years. The Grizzlies have gone 15-3 against the Bobcats since 2005.

Riley’s job: change those fortunes. Doyon’s: keep the one-sided results coming.

“JJ and I are good friends, and we will continue to be good friends, but my priority every year will be to beat up on JJ as much as possible,” said Doyon. “I’m really looking forward to matching up and playing against him. I think it will bring a new and interesting dynamic to the rivalry.”

Doyon, who played club volleyball for Syracuse, graduated in 1995 with a degree in landscape architecture from the State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry.

While working in the landscape design field in Vail, Colo., Doyon began his path toward Montana when he took over the volleyball program at Battle Mountain High School in 2003. By 2006 the Huskies were the Colorado Class 4A state champions. He joined the Utah staff in 2009.

For seven years Doyon served as the assistant director of Pettit’s Vail-based “Summit on Extraordinary Coaching,” an annual gathering that attracted the nation’s top coaches, across all collegiate sports. Doyon also worked as the assistant director for Colorado State coach Tom Hilbert’s summer camps.

Both of those coaches this week confirmed that Montana had found the right coach at the right time.

“I’ve known Brian for probably at least a dozen years. I knew him when he was an exceptional high school and club coach and later when he became an assistant at Utah,” said Pettit. “He has great character, and he’ll do his best to bring strong talent to the program.

“Montana will be a great fit for him, because he’s spent much of his life doing things in the outdoors. I think he sees this not as a temporary move to position himself to coach somewhere else. I think he sees Missoula as a place he and his family can be for a long time.”

Hilbert knows a thing or two about the Big Sky Conference and Montana. He was the Big Sky Coach of the Year in 1992, ’93, ’94 and ’95 while coaching at Idaho, when the Vandals and the Grizzlies were the top two programs in the league.

He has taken the Rams to 18 straight NCAA tournaments since moving to Colorado State after the 1996 season. This past fall, CSU went 31-3 and ended the year ranked No. 12 in the nation.

“I’ve known Brian since he built a very successful high school program at Battle Mountain, and we’ve been friends throughout his career,” said Hilbert, who has a record at Idaho and Colorado State of 636-181. “Every place he’s gone, they’ve improved the program, so he’s ready for this move.

“He’s a good recruiter, and he’s someone who coaches in a very sensible way. He’s not going to be complicated. He’s going to do things that make sense for the type of talent he has and competitive situation he’s in.”

Doyon inherits a team that won only six matches in 2014 and has long struggled to compete with the top teams in the Big Sky, but he also takes over a largely returning and youthful roster.

The Grizzlies’ top four hitters will be back in the fall, and middle blocker Capri Richardson, who was voted second-team All-Big Sky Conference last year, will be the program’s lone senior in 2015.

Montana Sports Information