Dec. 8, 2005
Notre Dame’s Debbie Brown was recognized by the American Volleyball Coaches Association as the Tachikara/AVCA Northeast Region Coach of the Year, it was announced on Wednesday. It marked the fourth time in her tenure leading the Irish – but first since 1997 – that she has been recognized as a district or region coach of the year. She and the other seven regional honorees – plus coaches of all eight teams reaching the NCAA quarterfinals – will be finalists for Tachikara/AVCA National Coach of the Year, which will be announced on Dec. 15.
All AVCA member coaches were asked to nominate someone in their respective region based on the following criteria: (1) team success during the current season; (2) team improvement from the previous season; (3) fulfillment of team potential; (4) and professional manner and attitude of the coach. Each regional committee, which consists of one head coach from each of the region’s conferences, then made the selections for the regional coach of the year. The Northeast Region consists of all schools in the BIG EAST, America East, and Atlantic-10 Conferences, as well as those in the Ivy and Patriot Leagues. The other regional winners were Nebraska’s John Cook (Central Region), Maryland’s Janice Kruger (East), Ohio’s Geoff Carlston (Mideast), Mitch Jacobs from Marshall (Midwest), Jon Wallace from Santa Clara (Pacific), Western Kentucky’s Travis Hudson (South), and Dave Shoji from Hawai’i.
Five of the region coaches have helped their teams to the round of 16 in the NCAA Championship, meaning that 11 additional coaches also have the opportunity to join the finalists for the national award by winning regional semifinal contests on Friday. The Tachikara/AVCA National Coach of the Year will be announced at the 2005 AVCA Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
Last month Brown became the first five-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year (no one else has won the award more than twice), and she followed that up with her first regional coach-of-the-year accolade since her team’s last trip to the round of 16 of the NCAAs (1997). This is the first time she has been honored by the AVCA since it began referring to the group of schools as the Northeast Region (in 2000), following five years of it being called District 1. Prior to joining the BIG EAST Conference in 1995, Notre Dame was in the AVCA’s Mideast Region, and Brown was tabbed its top coach in both 1992 and ’93.
This year’s Irish squad is one of the best in the 21-year head-coaching career of Brown, which also includes six seasons at Arizona State from 1983-88. It is the first Brown-coached team ever to break into the top five of the AVCA poll, something Notre Dame did for the first time ever on Oct. 31. That also marked the first time any school had ever reached the national top five after being unranked in the AVCA’s preseason poll. That was not the first time this season that the Irish made AVCA poll history, as their two-poll jump from unranked (listed 27th) in the preseason to eighth on Sept. 12 is the largest ever by any school. Notre Dame’s one-week burst from 19th on Sept. 7 to eighth the following week matched the largest single-poll rise by any school ever.
This year’s squad is the third coached by Brown to win 30+ matches in a season, following the 1992 (30-8 final record) and ’94 (33-4) teams. It has assured itself of joining the ’94 unit as the only Brown-led teams ever to lose fewer than seven matches in a season. It is the sixth time the veteran coach has taken a squad to the final 16 of the NCAA tournament, and this year’s team will try to join Notre Dame’s 1993 one as the only ones to advance to the national quarterfinals.
The 2005 team earned the No. 6 seed in the NCAAs, a program best, and earlier this season put together a 15-match winning streak, the longest of Brown’s tenure. Notre Dame was a co-champion of the BIG EAST in the regular season and then defeated Louisville in five games to win the league tournament. The Irish have been ranked in the top 10 of the AVCA poll in 11 of 14 editions this season after doing that on just eight occasions in program history prior to ’05. Notre Dame is 5-0 this year against teams ranked among the top 15 in the AVCA poll. All three Irish defeats have come in five-game matches, and ND had match points in two of those matches.
Brown, a native of the Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo, was a star during her playing days, first at El Segundo High School (from 1972-75), then at the University of Southern California (1976-77), and finally with the United States National Team. She led the Women of Troy to a 72-1 record and two national championships during her collegiate seasons, being a first-team All-America outside hitter in both campaigns and twice winning the Mikasa Award as the nation’s top all-around player. She then left USC to train full-time with the national team and became a co-captain of that squad, which took fifth place in the 1978 World Championships and figured to be medal contenders in the 1980 Olympics before the United States elected to boycott those games.
Brown returned to school at Arizona State in 1980 and was a student assistant coach for two seasons before finishing her degree in 1982. She then was an assistant at Central Arizona in ’82 before returning to ASU as its head coach in 1983. After six seasons that included five NCAA bids, four national top-20 finishes, and the 1986 Pac-10 Coach of the Year Award, Brown – who had been a consultant since 1986 – took a leave of absence in ’88 to become an assistant coach for the U.S. national team, before accepting a full-time national team position in ’89. She played a role in the United States claiming the bronze medal in the 1990 World Championships and then began her career at Notre Dame in 1991.
Her tenure as the Irish head coach has seen ND compile a 374-121 (.756) record, and she has a 491-204 (.706) career mark as a head coach. Brown’s Notre Dame squads have finished in the AVCA top 25 on a dozen occasions and earned 14 consecutive trips to the NCAA Championship, making her one of just five coaches to have led his/her current team to 14+ consecutive bids (along with Penn State’s Russ Rose, Kathy Gregory from UC Santa Barbara, Brian Gimmillaro from Long Beach State, and Florida’s Mary Wise). The Brown era has seen the Irish win 14 regular-season conference championships and 13 league-tournament titles. It also has seen 15 consecutive winning seasons, with all but one featuring 20+ victories.
Brown and the Irish will return to action on Friday at 5 p.m. (CST) against 11th-seeded and 12th-ranked Wisconsin (25-6) in the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament in G. Rollie White Coliseum on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. Fans can follow the match via live statistics linked on Notre Dame’s official athletics website, www.und.com, and also through live internet audio available on und.com to subscribers for Fighting Irish All-Access.