This time, it wasn’t just about finding someone who had the right amount of coaching experience or good enough offensive and defensive systems to deliver conference championships and NCAA Tournament berths.
The new Cal Poly volleyball coach needed to have the ideal personality and characteristic traits to assume a program that was rocked with sexual allegations last September, which led to the firing of Jon Stevenson. The Mustangs announced Friday afternoon their new head coach in former Cal assistant Sam Crosson, who Cal Poly athletic director Don Oberhelman noted as someone with “a very quiet confidence.”
“He doesn’t come in and fill the room with enthusiasm and noise,” Oberhelman said. “When other coaches come in, they just take over the room. He’s more quiet and reserved. He’s a listener. He’s exactly what the program needs right now, someone who brings a calmness about him. A lot of stability. And he’s going to think very, very carefully about every decision he makes in the leadership of this program.”
This is a new chapter for Cal Poly volleyball. On Sept. 1, the university dismissed Stevenson, one of the most successful coaches in program history, after an investigation surrounding allegations of sexual harassment toward his players became public. The report included accusations of Stevenson attempting to pull one player’s shorts down, commenting about the sex lives of his players and kissing a player on the cheek and whispering, “I love you.”
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Crosson knows one of his main responsibilities as the new coach is to gain the trust of the Cal Poly players.
“They have heard today that trust is the main component of how we’re going to move forward and developing those relationships,” Crosson said, “not only with myself to them but also among themselves, with them among the staff. It is the foundation for which great things to come. And so, we are in the process of working on that.”
The Mustangs, who missed the postseason last season after finishing 12-17 overall and 7-9 in the Big West Conference, attended Friday’s press conference and said they were excited about moving forward.
“I think he’s going to bring a lot of change to the program and I think that’s going to be good,” said sophomore outside hitter Kristina Graven, a first-team all-conference member. “I think he’s a great all-around coach and he just elevated the program at all levels.”
“I think it’s about starting over. Fresh, clean slate,” said junior middle blocker Jennifer Keddy, who was named the conference’s player of the year. “I’m sure he’ll have a bunch of techniques that we’ll be working on, basically starting over.”
Crosson, who is Cal Poly’s fifth head coach in school history, comes from a Cal program that had its most successful season in 2010, winning a share of the Pac-10 title and advancing to the NCAA championship match. That year, the Golden Bears finished with a school-record 30 wins and produced two first-team All-Americans.
Cal followed that campaign with a 26-7 overall record (16-6 Pac-12) last year, again advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
Crosson joined the Golden Bears in 2010 after five seasons as the top assistant for St. Mary’s, which included consecutive 20-win seasons. He graduated from Pacific, which shares the same league as Cal Poly and where he played four successful seasons for the Tigers men’s volleyball team and earned team co-MVP honors in 1997.
“I have been in Mott Gym before,” he said. “I know what the environment is like. I know there’s a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for the program currently in San Luis Obispo. It has a common theme from the volleyball perspective that there is support. There’s also a great academic institution. And the combinations of those two things were the main draw for me to get kids who are highly motivated in both areas of their lives while they’re here — academics and athletics.”
He began coaching women’s volleyball in 2004, when he was a volunteer assistant at Santa Clara.
And now, he’s in charge of his own team.
Crosson, who is married to Courtney Miller and has two daughters, agreed to a four-year contract worth approximately $106,000 per year, according to Oberhelman. It was about the same amount Stevenson had earned before his dismissal.
Along with the Cal Poly players, former interim coach Caroline Walters attended Friday’s announcement at Mustang Hall inside Mott Gym. Crosson said a formal decision on his assistant coaches has not been made, adding, “That process is being evaluated.” Nonetheless, the Mustangs are excited about what’s ahead.
“A new chapter is a good way to put it,” said Oberhelman, who considered two other finalists with similar backgrounds as Crosson’s. “It’s an opportunity for us to focus our eyes on the horizon and not worry about what’s behind us. We’re going full speed ahead from here on out.”