Hildebrand leaves for top position with USA volleyball

February 23, 2018 GMT

LINCOLN — When Tyler Hildebrand came to Nebraska as an assistant nearly a year ago, he passed up a chance with USA volleyball to help others reach their Olympic dreams.

He didn’t pass up the next chance.

Hildebrand is leaving NU to become USA Volleyball’s director of coaching for its beach national teams, and will guide the senior national teams attempting to qualify for the Olympics.

He will remain with the Huskers through the end of the beach season, which runs through March.

After helping Nebraska to its fifth NCAA championship in his first season as a college women’s coach, Hildebrand will return to a familiar setting. The 34-year-old coached the U.S. beach team of Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson in the 2016 Rio Olympics and also worked with setters on the American men’s indoor team.

The new job will mark a return to the West Coast for Hildebrand and his wife, former Stanford All-American Kristin (Richards) Hildebrand, who served as NU’s volunteer director of operations last year. The couple had their first child, a son Rhett, in November.

“It is with bittersweet emotions that Kristin and I are leaving this magical place,” Hildebrand said in a press release. “We had a magical season, one that we will never forget. Coaching in Devaney (Center) is like nothing else in the world of volleyball.

“We have heavy hearts filled with memories that will never fade. We can’t express enough how grateful we are for being able to be a part of this Husker family.”

Hildebrand worked with the middle blockers and setters at Nebraska.

A former All-America setter at Long Beach State, Hildebrand helped guide Kelly Hunter to one of the best seasons by a setter in program history. Hunter was named first-team All-American and the Big Ten setter of the year while sharing Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors with teammate Mikaela Foecke.

“The 2017 season was an awesome season and one of the reasons why was because of Tyler and Kristin,” coach John Cook said in a press release. “They really brought a lot to our team and had a major part in helping us win a Big Ten and a national championship. This new position is the only position that would take him away from Nebraska, and even though the timing isn’t great, we know he’ll do a great job with USA Beach Volleyball.”

Senior outside hitter Annika Albrecht also credited Hildebrand with helping her make offensive improvements that led to second-team All-America honors last year, her first season as a front-row starter.

Hildebrand also served as Nebraska’s primary scout, instrumental in creating game plans for opponents. In 2017, Nebraska led the Big Ten in opponents’ hitting percentage, holding foes to .154 attacking.

“The team was a blessing to coach and showed us all the power of coming together and being with each other, for each other,” Hildebrand said. “This program, university and state is lucky to have Coach Cook. I have learned countless things from him, and he showed me as a coach what it takes to be great.”

The pursuit by USA Volleyball wasn’t the first time Hildebrand had been approached in recent months. In December, he told The World-Herald he had been approached by a third party to gauge his interest in the Southern California coaching job after USC parted ways with longtime coach Mick Haley. Hildebrand said in December he was planning to remain on the Husker staff in 2018, and USC eventually hired Portland coach Brent Crouch.

“I’ve got to learn more from Coach (Cook), and learn more from Nebraska, and learn how to coach under pressure,” Hildebrand said in December.

The departure presents a familiar challenge to Cook, who was faced with replacing both of his assistants last winter after Dani Busboom Kelly and Chris Tamas accepted coaching jobs at Louisville and Illinois, respectively.

The other vacancy was filled by Kayla Banwarth, a former Olympian and Husker libero.

“Just like a year ago, we’re going to go find the best coach we can for Nebraska volleyball,” Cook said. “We loved having Tyler here, but this is a really unique job for him with USA Volleyball and fits what he wants to do and where he wants to go in the coaching profession.

“When you hire great people, they’re going to have great opportunities, and this is a great opportunity for Tyler and a great fit for him back home.”