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Legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant once said, “if my assistant and I think the same thing, one of us isn’t necessary.”
CSU volleyball coach Tom Hilbert followed that wisdom with his new assistants Matthew Botsford and Brook Coulter.
Hilbert hired the pair this offseason after longtime blocking coach Jesse Mahoney left to become the University of Denver’s blocking coach, and Bri Frech transitioned into the director of operations.
“When I was at the University of Idaho, I hired a 24-year-old and she helped make our program better because she brought new things in,” Hilbert said. “From that point on I’ve always tried to hire people who are not like me, and can bring in new ideas and new energy.”
Matthew Botsford joined CSU in April after leading Swedish professional team Lindesburg Volley to its first ever Swedish Elite Series title.
“I learned a lot about personnel management and blending personalities, whether it’s in a staff or the roster itself,” Botsford said. “It’s a new perspective. Any time you get an influx of new people, new ideas, it stimulates conversation and that typically leads to good things.”
Even being a head coach in Europe, Botsford knew he wanted to eventually return to coaching collegiate volleyball, but wasn’t sure when. Hilbert offered him the perfect situation.
“The timing was based on joining a program that was a high level in a place where I could continue to learn. What Tom has done with this program is pretty impressive, everybody’s familiar with it,” Botsford said. “It was about a new experience for me and also about contributing to what they’re trying to do.”
The chance to apprentice under Hilbert also attracted Brook Coulter from the University of Georgia after one year to come back to her hometown.
“Being able to work side by side with him was definitely a huge draw. I think the bonus is that it’s at home,” Coulter said. “This is a dream job to come back home and be a part of the community you grew up in.”
Though the staff has only been fully working together since early August, Hilbert has given his assistants near full autonomy.
“They know what the right way is, they’re not going to undermine me. They’re smart people and I’m secure enough to know I don’t know everything,” he said. “It makes my job easier and makes our team better to have a lot of people talking about a lot of things.”
Both Botsford and Coulter appreciate the freedom, but understand their roles in the program and don’t want to step beyond them.
“Tom has given us that green light, but I think it’s important to be tentative because I want to be sure I’m never contradicting his philosophy or tactical approach,” Botsford said.
Transitioning to the new coaching staff has been easy for the team because of how well they fit into their positions.
“They’ve taught us so many new things already,” redshirt senior middle blocker Megan Plourde said.
And that’s exactly why Hilbert brought in Coulter and Botsford.
“What you have here is three very strong coaches with great opinions, and the one thing about them is they’re not egotistical. None of us are,” Hilbert said. “We can get in a room and hash out things that we want to talk about and be fortified to the team. There’s great coaching going on in this gym right now.”
Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com.