Mike Johnson becomes the sixth head coach in program history

Jim McLaughlin Resigns from Volleyball Post Due to Health Reasons

June 15, 2018

University of Notre Dame volleyball coach Jim McLaughlin has announced his intention to resign due to health reasons following three seasons in that role. McLaughlin has been dealing with back issues for some time that recently became so severe that it became difficult to perform all his coaching duties.

Irish associate head coach Mike Johnson will take over the Notre Dame head coaching position effective 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. But our first concern is Jim’s health and for that reason we fully support his decision,” said Notre Dame vice president and James E. Rohr athletics director Jack Swarbrick.

“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.”

McLaughlin’s third season at Notre Dame in 2017 produced a second consecutive 22-10 record and the first Irish appearance in the NCAA Championship since 2012. The Irish posted those two straight 22-win seasons after combining for 13 victories in the two previous years. 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,” said McLaughlin. “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. 

“While I work to get my back issues resolved, this will also give me an opportunity to spend more time with my family. Coaching at this level takes a significant amount of time and I have not always been able to spend the time I wanted with my wife and three daughters who have been so understanding during my coaching career. Now, while I am working to get back to full health, I will get the opportunity to watch my two oldest daughters play soccer at the collegiate level and be more involved in my youngest daughter’s activities. I came to Notre Dame because I felt it was a special place and I am leaving even more convinced of that fact. This school offers its student-athletes an incredibly unique college experience and I feel fortunate that I was able to coach here. There is no doubt I will miss being around the players but I am also excited for the future of Notre Dame volleyball.” 

The only individual to coach both a women’s and a men’s volleyball team to NCAA titles and a former women’s volleyball national coach of the year at the University of Washington, McLaughlin was named Irish head volleyball coach Jan. 17, 2015.

McLaughlin coached the USC men’s team to an NCAA title in 1989-90 and led the Washington women’s team to the 2005 NCAA crown. He came to Notre Dame in 2015 following 14 highly successful seasons as the Huskies’ coach, a tenure that featured four trips to the NCAA national semifinals in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2013. He earned rave reviews for turning around struggling women’s programs both at Washington and at Kansas State University.

He also brought Notre Dame family ties with him back to South Bend. McLaughlin spent one season as an Irish assistant volleyball coach in 1996, and his wife, the former Margaret Jarc, is a former co-captain of the Irish women’s soccer team. She spent two years as a Notre Dame assistant women’s soccer coach (1995 and 1996), with the Irish winning their first NCAA title in that sport in 1995.

McLaughlin and Margaret are parents of three daughters: Megan (she just finished her sophomore year as a member of the soccer team at Notre Dame), Molly (she will play soccer at Xavier beginning in 2018) and Marit.

Johnson, whose Xavier University volleyball teams averaged more than 20 wins per season in his five years as the Musketeers’ head coach (2010-14), joined the Notre Dame volleyball program in January 2015 as its associate head coach. He previously served as an assistant coach under McLaughlin for one year at Washington in 2004.

“I wish to thank (University president) Father John Jenkins, Jack Swarbrick, and (senior deputy athletics director) Missy Conboy for the opportunity to lead the volleyball program at Notre Dame,” said Johnson. “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.”

Johnson’s first four campaigns at Xavier featured 20-victory seasons and league runner-up finishes, the first three in the Atlantic 10 Conference and the last in the BIG EAST Conference. In his one year as head coach at Austin Peay his 2009 squad recorded a 22-9 overall mark and 15-3 Ohio Valley Conference record, its best league standing in 17 years.

Johnson also 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. Johnson’s one season as an assistant at Washington in 2004 saw him help 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.

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 three daughters–Jamie, Harper and Nell–and a son, Noah.