It’s Monday, December 19. Dani Busboom Kelly is on the phone, talking to a volleyball reporter. Given that her Nebraska Huskers were making a run to the NCAA’s Final Four just four days ago, it would seem the interview would be about the assistant coach’s thoughts on the season that was. But not for Busboom Kelly, who is jumping right into the future as the new head coach of the Louisville Cardinals.
“I’m not gonna lie and say I’m not a little nervous,” said Busboom Kelly of her first head coaching gig in the NCAA. “But I’m also very excited for the opportunity. Being familiar with the school and the athletic department, I just couldn’t pass it up when I was approached by the University.”
Busboom Kelly coached as an assistant at Louisville back in 2011, helping the team to the ACC semifinal and into the NCAA Tournament’s second round. Her one season of coaching there made enough of an impact for Louisville’s Director of Athletics Tom Jurich to say this in the press release announcing her hire:
“We are thrilled to have Dani guiding our volleyball program,” said Jurich. “I was so impressed with her in the one year that she was here on (former UofL coach) Anne Kordes‘ staff and I have followed her career closely since then. (Nebraska head coach) John Cook is someone who I really respect and tried to hire while I was at Colorado State. He and many others have provided rave reviews about Dani and I am confident she will be successful here. Everyone I spoke with around the nation has told me she is among the very best in the nation as a recruiter.”
Busboom Kelly herself called Louisville a second home, and said her familiarity with the school, program and area should be a huge help moving forward:
“I think it’s huge,” she said. “Louisville and the surrounding three hours is a big area for volleyball. And so that’s where I made a lot of my club connections and recruiting connections from the very beginning. So it’s pretty exciting to be going back there and knowing I can recruit them closer to home.”
Though NCAA volleyball is currently in its recruiting “dead period,” Busboom Kelly has plenty other tasks to check off her list, and says she’s officially starting up with Louisville this week. She got a jump start on her work even earlier than that, though, with former Nebraska and Augustana coach Dan Meske lined up to serve as her first associate head coach at Louisville.
“I couldn’t be more happy to have him by my side,” she said. “We work really well together, we complement each others strengths and weaknesses. It’s going to be a whole team effort, and that’s the way I want to build my program.”
Busboom Kelly, of course, was a standout player for Nebraska in the mid-2000s, winning a national title in 2006. One of the nation’s top liberos, she would eventually coach for both Louisville and Nebraska, and she makes the leap to Louisville after wrapping up a season in which the Huskers were ranked #1 for most of the year and rolled all the way to the NCAA semifinals.
Louisville, meanwhile, is looking for a return to glory after a rough 2016 season. The ACC champs in 2015, the Cardinals went just 12-18 this past year, and saw head coach Anne Kordes resign for personal reasons.
“I think there’s a really great pool of talent right now,” said Busboom Kelly of Louisville. “I think putting it together and getting everybody to play as a team and to trust each other and trust the staff – that’ll go a long ways, because they have the physical talent.”
Even after a stressful postseason run with Nebraska, Busboom Kelly isn’t taking any time to rest on her laurels. She said she’d be starting with her new program this week with ambitious goals.
“I’m starting with Louisville tomorrow, really,” Busboom Kelly said Monday, noting that the NCAA recruiting dead period (which runs through December 31) makes the transition a bit smoother. “This whole time, I’ve wanted to take advantage of being named head coach so early.”