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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Jim McLaughlin resigns as head coach

Notre Dame head coach Jim McLaughlin announced his intention to resign due to health reasons in a statement Friday. McLaughlin, who has been at the helm of the Irish squad for three years, has been dealing with severe back problems that limited his ability to effectively coach. He will hand the reigns over to associate head coach Mike Johnson, who will take over the head coaching position beginning July 1.

“Everyone at Notre Dame wishes that Jim were able to continue to lead our program. His impact on our program during the past three years has been everything we hoped it would be,” Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick said in the statement. “But our first concern is Jim’s health and for that reason we fully support his decision.”

“Mike’s previous head coaching experience added to his time at Notre Dame give us great confidence that he will build upon the foundation that Jim has laid, allowing us to continue to build a championship volleyball program — one that puts our students in a position to succeed on the court, in the classroom and in life.”

The only individual to coach both a men’s and women’s volleyball team to NCAA titles, McLaughlin has accumulated many accolades throughout his coaching career, highlighted by his earning the women’s volleyball national coach of the year while coaching at the University of Washington. After leading the USC men’s team to an NCAA title in 1989-1990, he led the Huskies to a national championship in 2005.

After 14 successful seasons with the Huskies, McLaughlin came to Notre Dame in 2015. With the Irish, McLaughlin helped guide the team to consecutive 22-10 campaigns, including the program’s first appearance in the NCAA championship since 2012 last season in 2017. The Irish made a extremely quick turnaround under McLaughlin’s leadership, taking over a 6-23 team in 2014 and bringing it to the NCAA championship in just three years.. All in all, McLaughlin’s 28-year career record stands at 630-253 (.713).

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Notre Dame and all of the tremendous people I have met here,” McLaughlin said in the statement. “I believe in everything that Notre Dame stands for and appreciate having the opportunity to coach at such a fine institution that has such outstanding values to guide its athletic programs. It has been a privilege representing this great University for the last three years. It has also been a privilege working with all of the fine young women I have had the pleasure of coaching in the volleyball program. These players have worked hard and have committed themselves at the highest level both in the classroom and in the gym. They continue to make progress and, in time, I believe Notre Dame volleyball will get to the NCAA Final Four and win a national title.

“I believe in Mike Johnson, his values and his ability to teach the game of volleyball and lead the program back to national prominence. He is a special coach. I am confident he will keep the volleyball program heading in the right direction and will continue to build on what we have established.

“I have always asked my players to give everything they have mentally, emotionally and physically and unfortunately, at this point, I cannot make that same commitment to them nor can I give back to them that same level of dedication to coaching that they need and deserve. I considered a leave of absence to resolve my back issues but with no certainty as to how long that will take, elevating Mike to the head coach position now offers the program continuity and recruits more certainty as to who will be leading the program in the future.”

Johnson previously served as an assistant coach under McLaughlin for one year at Washington in 2004, when the Huskies captured their first Pac-10 Conference championship and reached the NCAA championship Final Four for the first time in program history. In his one year as head coach at Austin Peay, Johnson’s 2009 squad recorded a 22-9 overall mark and 15-3 Ohio Valley Conference record, its best league standing in 17 years. His Xavier University volleyball teams averaged more than 20 wins per season in the five years he spent as the Musketeers’ head coach (2010-14). He joined the Notre Dame volleyball program in January 2015 as its associate head coach.

"I wish to thank [University president] Fr. John Jenkins, Jack Swarbrick and [senior deputy athletics director] Missy Conboy for the opportunity to lead the volleyball program at Notre Dame,” Johnson said. “I believe deeply in this University and the manner in which it shapes people for a lifetime of success. It is our aim to continue to build a volleyball program that reflects the greatness of the University itself.

“I also wish to thank Jim McLaughlin and to celebrate his illustrious career. It has been a genuine honor to coach beside him for the past three seasons. While our program has improved significantly in that time, I believe his greater impact will be felt in the years to come. Jim made our athletes better players. But, more importantly, he made us better people. Jim devoted his life to the coaches and athletes under his care, not only here at Notre Dame, but in each of his coaching stops prior. He pushed us. He believed in us. He helped us to become the best of which we are capable — not for him, but for us. I believe I would be speaking for everyone in saying this — our lives and the lives of those we touch are better because of him.

“Moving forward, our staff will work tirelessly toward the end of making Notre Dame one of the premier volleyball programs in the country. In doing so, we will not only honor Notre Dame, but also Jim himself. I am also excited for the opportunity to work with the players currently in the program as well as those that we have recruited. I admire the commitment each has made toward being the very best, both academically and athletically. These are all special young people, and if we attack each and every day with a mentality to grow and improve we can become a special team. We look forward to the days ahead and are committed as a group to becoming the very best that we can become.”