Rick McLaughlin, who became the youngest head coach in the history of NCAA Division 1 volleyball when he was hired at Loyola Marymount in 1993, won the first AVCA National Men’s Coach of the Year Award in UCSB’s history this week.
This year’s Gauchos were 14-2 and ranked No. 3 in the AVCA National Poll on March 12 when the season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We knew this was going to be a big year with eight seniors on the team,” McLaughlin said. “This didn’t start just this year for this group — it started four years ago — and they were all in.”
Four of those seniors were honored a day earlier as AVCA All-Americans, with setter Casey McGarry making the first team. Opposite hitter Randy DeWeese and middle blocker Keenan Sanders were tabbed to the second team while outside hitter Roy McFarland received honorable mention.
McLaughlin said that all four of those All-Americans have decided to take advantage of an NCAA waiver granting them an extra season of eligibility. They will team with star sophomores Ryan Wilcox and Brandon Wilcox to make UCSB a strong national title contender for next season.
McLaughlin said he considers his AVCA honor to be “a team award” while citing the efforts of current assistant coaches Blaine Nelson and Jonah Seif, as well as Cullen Irons and Vince Devany, who were on his staff until last year.
Devany, the setter on McLaughlin’s NCAA finalist team of 2011, worked closely in developing McGarry into becoming one of the nation’s best at the position.
“They are definitely two of the best I’ve ever had,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin was a star setter himself, having started for four seasons at LMU.
He began his coaching career as an assistant at Pepperdine, helping the Waves win the 1992 NCAA Championship. He was hired as a head coach by his alma mater the next year, guiding the Lions for eight seasons. His tenure ended in 2000 when LMU dropped the sport despite McLaughlin winning both the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and ASICS/Volleyball National Coach of the Year Awards.
He joined the women’s volleyball staff of his brother, former UCSB star Jim McLaughlin, at the University of Washington in 2001 before returning to Pepperdine to help its men’s team win another NCAA title in 2005.
McLaughlin’s first stint at UCSB began that following autumn when women’s coach Kathy Gregory hired him as an assistant coach. He continued from there to serve two years as the head women’s coach at Golden West College before succeeding UCSB Hall of Famer Ken Preston as head coach of the Gaucho men in 2008.
McLaughlin has posted a win-loss record of 169-155 during his 12 years at UCSB.
His Gauchos were on an eight-match winning streak when this season was cancelled. Their only defeats this year were both at BYU. Of UCSB’s 14 wins, nine came over nationally ranked teams.
Defense was the name of UCSB’s game. The Gauchos held their opponents to a hitting percentage of just .178 — best in the nation — and ranked second with 10.55 digs per set.
McGarry also set a versatile offense which averaged 13.05 kills per set, fifth-best in the country. UCSB’s team hitting percentage of .333 also ranked fifth.
McLaughlin said that, along with the reopening of UCSB’s campus, depends on how quickly the nation can recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“I look forward to getting this over with and getting back out there,” he said.