Jan. 20, 2015
Mike Johnson, whose Xavier University volleyball teams averaged more than 20 wins per year the last five seasons while he was Musketeers’ head coach, has been named associate head volleyball coach at the University of Notre Dame.
Johnson joins the staff of new Irish head coach Jim McLaughlin after previously serving as an assistant under McLaughlin for one year at the University of Washington in 2004.
Johnson brings six years of head coaching experience to the Notre Dame bench, including one season at Austin Peay State University. His first four campaigns at Xavier produced 20-victory seasons and league runner-up finishes–the first three in the Atlantic 10 Conference and the last in the BIG EAST Conference. Johnson’s three consecutive runner-up finishes in the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship marked a first for Xavier. His Musketeer squads produced seven American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) honorable mention All-America selections, most recently Aubree Smith in 2014.
“I want to thank Jack Swarbrick, Missy Conboy and Jim McLaughlin for this incredible opportunity,” said Johnson. “Notre Dame has always been a dream school of mine and my family is excited about the move to South Bend. I believe Jim is the best coach in the country, and there is no other coach that I would make this move for. In my mind, Notre Dame is a sleeping giant, and we can’t wait to get to work to help bring this program to the nation’s elite.”
“Mike is a great fit in a number of ways,” said McLaughlin. “I’m familiar with him and how hard he works. I know his ability as a teacher–he is very good at the process of coaching. He’s a good guy that has several years of head-coaching experience and I feel really comfortable with him on my right-hand side.”
In Xavier’s first two years in the BIG EAST, Johnson’s teams finished 21-11 and 19-11 overall, with a dozen league victories to their credit each season. Alex Smith, Aubree Smith and Abbey Bessler claimed first-team all-BIG EAST recognition in 2013–and Aubree Smith and Bessler won those honors again in 2014. Johnson’s 2013 unit ranked third nationally in floor defense and 23rd in kills.
During his first three seasons in Cincinnati from 2010 through 2012, Johnson led the Musketeers to a 62-32 combined overall record and a 34-10 mark in Atlantic 10 play. He also brought the team to three straight Atlantic 10 Championship finals. Under Johnson’s guidance, the team had a school-record five players named either first- or second-team all-conference in both 2010 and 2012. Xavier first-team all-conference selections were Michelle Matia and Claire Paszkiewicz in 2010, Sarah Brown and Alex Smith in 2011 and Alex Smith again in 2012.
Stephanie Vorherr was selected the Atlantic 10 libero of the year in 2010 and 2011, while Aubree Smith was Atlantic 10 rookie of the year in 2011.
In Johnson’s one year as head coach at Austin Peay his squad recorded a 22-9 overall mark and 15-3 Ohio Valley Conference record for its best league standing in 17 years. Stephanie Champine was named the league’s 2009 player of the year, the first individual to receive that award for the Lady Govs since 1992 and only the third in school history. Three Lady Govs were named to OVC all-conference first and second teams in 2009, the first time in program history three players won all-league honors in the same season. That team rated eighth nationally in floor defense and 21st in service aces.
Prior to joining the Austin Peay coaching staff in March 2009, Johnson spent three years on the Cal Poly staff under head coach Jon Stevenson–as an assistant for the 2006 and 2007 campaigns, then as associate head coach for 2008. He also was named one of the nation’s 30 up-and-coming volleyball coaches under 30 years old by the AVCA following the 2008 season. While he was the Mustangs’ defensive coordinator, Cal Poly claimed back-to-back Big West Conference championships in 2006 and 2007 and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2007, finishing the season ranked 11th nationally. Johnson helped assemble three recruiting classes ranked among the top 25 in the nation.
Prior to joining the Mustangs, Johnson served as an assistant coach at Washington in 2004–helping McLaughlin and the Huskies capture their first Pacific-10 Conference championship and reach the NCAA Championship Final Four for the first time in program history. That team finished the season ranked No. 3 nationally and ranked ninth nationally in kills.
Johnson’s recruiting class this past year at Xavier ranked in the top 25 nationally for the first time in school history–and he also assisted in attracting a top-10 class in his one year at Washington and the only three nationally-rated classes in Cal Poly history.
Johnson served as president of the BIG EAST volleyball coaches and was east region chair of the AVCA All-America committee.
A native of Kahaluu, Hawaii, Johnson graduated from Washington in 2003 with a degree in chemical engineering. He is married to the former Liz Grajewski, a former all-Big Ten gymnast at Iowa. They have two daughters, Jamie and Harper, and a son, Noah.