The defending NCAA champion Stanford Cardinal have wasted no time in tabbing a successor to retiring head coach John Dunning, naming University of Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly as the program’s “Director of Women’s Volleyball” this week.
Hambly had previously coached 8 seasons at Illinois, making the NCAA tournament in six of those eight seasons and reaching the NCAA Championship title game in 2011. That 2011 team started the season 20-0 and spent time ranked #1 nationwide. His Illini struggled this season, though, going just .500 in the Big Ten and missing the NCAA tournament.
Hambly now takes over the program that finished 2016 in that #1 slot. Stanford’s young, dynamic roster won the NCAA title match over Texas this year, and longtime coach John Dunning announced his retirement earlier this month. Dunning had coached 32 years at Stanford, winning 5 NCAA titles. The current Stanford group will graduate leader Inky Ajanaku, but returns all of its other major contributors for next season.
The full Stanford press release announcing the hire, followed by statements from the University of Illinois about Hambly’s departure:
STANFORD, Calif. – Kevin Hambly has been named Stanford’s Director of Women’s Volleyball, as announced today by Jaquish & Kenniger Director of Athletics Bernard Muir.
Hambly, who is the sixth head coach in the history of the program, arrives on The Farm after spending eight seasons as the head coach at Illinois, where he led the Illini to six NCAA regional appearances and the 2011 national title match. Hambly compiled a 178-86 overall record while in Champaign.
“I am thrilled to welcome Kevin, Mary and their daughters to the Stanford family,” said Muir. “Kevin is not only a great coach and teacher of the game, but he possesses the same values that make Stanford special. With a strong core returning from the national championship team, I have no doubt that Kevin will keep our women’s volleyball team among the nation’s elite. I believe he will maintain the integrity and sportsmanship this program is built on while ensuring our student-athletes reach their full potential on the court, in the classroom and beyond The Farm.”
“I am extremely excited for the opportunity to be the head coach at Stanford,” said Hambly. “It is the premier university and athletics department in the country, and there was just no way I could pass it up. I am grateful to Bernard and Beth [Goode] for the work they put in and the time they took to help me understand more about Stanford, which made me that much more excited for the opportunity.”
Hambly guided the Illini to the national semifinals in 2011 for the first time in 23 years before advancing to the NCAA title match for the first time in program history. Illinois also garnered its first No. 1 ranking in school history after opening the campaign 20-0. Following the season, Hambly was named the Volleyball Magazine National Coach of the Year. He coached 12 AVCA All-Americans to 19 honors during his time with the program.
Playing in the rigorous Big Ten Conference, Hambly racked up a 102-58 record in league matches. Illinois totaled five top-four finishes in conference play under Hambly, including three runner-up efforts from 2009-11.
The Illini have also produced in the classroom under Hambly, combining for 75 Academic All-Big Ten honors in the past eight seasons. Additionally, two of the program’s four CoSIDA Academic All-Americans played for the Illini during his tenure, while another garnered the Senior CLASS Award’s top honor.
Following the 2011 run to the national title match, Hambly was elected AVCA president, a post he held from Jan. 2013-Dec. 2015.
Prior to being named the head coach at Illinois, Hambly spent three seasons as an assistant for the Illini and two as a volunteer assistant from 2004-08. Before arriving in Champaign, he was an assistant coach for the U.S. National Team from 2001-04 and an assistant coach at UNLV from 1996-01.
A native of Simi Valley, California, Hambly played collegiately at BYU from 1992-95. While playing for the Cougars, he was named to the Volleyball Monthly All-Freshman Team in 1992, selected as a third-team All-American in 1994 and earned AVCA First Team All-America honors in 1995 after leading the nation in blocks. He went on to play professionally in France from 1995-96.
Hambly earned a bachelor’s of science degree in recreation, sport and tourism with an emphasis in sports management from Illinois in 2006. He and his wife, Mary, have two daughters, Quinn and Maura.
Hambly succeeds John Dunning, who announced his retirement in early January after leading the Cardinal to its seventh NCAA championship. Dunning, a member of the AVCA Hall of Fame, spent 16 seasons at the helm of the program, capturing three NCAA titles and eight Pac-12 championships while making eight Final Four appearances with the Cardinal.
Statements from Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman and former coach Kevin Hambly in regards to Hambly taking Stanford head coaching position:
“Kevin Hambly has done an outstanding job leading our volleyball program to a position of national prominence during his eight years at the helm. He approached every day with passion, pride, and great integrity. His student-athletes performed as champions on the court, in the classroom, and in their respective lives. We will miss Kevin, Mary, and their daughters in our program and our community, and we wish them the best as they return to Kevin’s native California. Here, we look forward to identifying the next dynamic leader who will continue the program on its upward trajectory. We are excited to usher in a new championship era of Illinois Volleyball.”
- Josh Whitman, UI Director of Athletics
“Leaving Illinois saddens me a great deal. I can’t even express how hard it is to leave these wonderful young women I got to coach every day. I feel like Mary and I have grown up as adults in Champaign. We will always be grateful we had this time here. It certainly shaped who I am as a man and a coach. Josh Whitman and Paul Kowalczyk were incredible through all of this process and I am glad Josh is the leader of the Illini. Leaving his leadership is as difficult as leaving the players. We will always be Illini!”