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Pat Harty: Shymansky hiring is a good thing

[ 0 ] February 3, 2014 |

Bond Shymansky is correct in saying that timing is everything.

The timing finally was right for the best candidate to be hired as the Iowa volleyball coach, regardless of gender.

Shymansky was introduced as the new Iowa volleyball coach on Monday. He is the ninth coach in school history, but also the first man to hold the position and the first UI graduate to hold the position.

Shymansky also grew up in Iowa City, so he’s coming home to try to resurrect a program that’s been among the worst in the Big Ten for nearly three decades.

“You know, you grow up here, it just becomes a part of who you are,” said Shymansky, who graduated from West High. “It’s part of your fabric.”

Shymansky shared his jubilation over landing the Iowa job on Twitter shortly after being hired last week.

“I tweeted the other night, ‘Always have been, always will be a Hawkeye,’ ” Shymansky said.

Why Shymansky wasn’t hired in 2008 over Sharon Dingman is anybody’s guess, and my feeling is that he didn’t fit the criteria or the culture at the time.

Nothing against Dingman, who was fired in December after compiling a 66-125 record in six seasons as coach, but she seemed less qualified for the Iowa job than Shymansky when she was hired six years ago.

Dingman had built Illinois State into a respectable program, finishing with a winning record in seven of her eight seasons on the job. She also led the Redbirds to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

A person doesn’t land a Big Ten coaching gig in any sport without having a proven track record.

Shymansky just seemed like a better fit at the time and was more accomplished than Dingman as a coach. Shymansky had been the coach at Georgia Tech since 2002 and was hugely successful there over seven seasons. The Yellow Jackets won three Atlantic Coast Conference titles under Shymansky and made three NCAA Tournament appearances, including Elite Eight and Sweet 16 finishes.

Combine his sparkling resume with his Iowa City roots, and hiring Shymansky should’ve been a no-brainer for UI officials in 2008, although Shymansky suggested otherwise on Monday. He said he spoke with Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta about the job six years ago, but their talks broke down for reasons we’ll probably never know.

“There was a point when Gary and I talked a little bit the last go-around and it just didn’t seem exactly like the right timing,” Shymansky said. “I still had some things to learn and grow and do as a coach, and now I feel like I’m ready for that.”

My guess is the culture within certain parts of the Iowa athletic program had something to do with Shymansky not being hired in 2008. It might not have been the deal breaker, but it was an obstacle that Shymansky couldn’t overcome, an unwillingness by some UI officials to break from tradition.

Some light was shed on that culture in December when former Iowa assistant track coach Mike Scott filed a complaint against the UI with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. Scott alleged that qualified male candidates were repeatedly passed over for an assistant job with the Iowa track program after the athletic department quietly mandated that a woman be hired.

Iowa wasn’t as desperate six years ago as it is now to fix the volleyball program. The facilities have improved since 2008, but not the record.

UI officials couldn’t afford to let tradition stand in the way of hiring the best candidate this time.

“I hate to lose,” Barta said. “It doesn’t matter what it is. If it’s a sport, if it’s a board game, I hate to lose. We’ve had success in volleyball, but it was in the ’80s. And we’re now in the most competitive conference in America for volleyball. And I hate to lose.”

Shymansky added to his resume by building Marquette into a volleyball power over the previous five seasons. He led Marquette to its first top-25 ranking in 2013 and signed the first top-25 recruiting class in program history.

And now he’s finally broken a pattern at his alma mater, causing me to respond with ‘Better late than never.’

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes volleyball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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