The old saying goes that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. For new Arizona volleyball assistant coach Matt Dyck, getting his new position was very much about both. Dyck’s family has lengthy ties with head coach Dave Rubio, but that’s not the only thing he had in his favor.
“Matt put himself in a position to be hired,” Rubio said. “This didn’t come just because of my relationship with the family. You’ve got to have the experience. You’ve got to have the ability to teach. You’ve got to have the connections. You’ve had to put your time in in order to be a serious consideration to be hired, and Matt has done that.”
Putting himself in that position began when he was an undergraduate at Arizona. As he worked on his bachelor’s degree in History from 2001-2005, Dyck was the manager for the volleyball team.
Those years were successful for the Wildcats. Arizona went 25-5 in 2001, ending the season just one step from the Final Four with a loss to Long Beach State. The following year, the Wildcats were stopped in the regional finals once again, this time by Stanford.
The next year saw another trip to the NCAA Tournament, although it ended in the first round. A trip to the second round followed in 2004.
Dyck’s last year as manager coincided with the freshman season of his younger sister Amy who was the Wildcats’ setter from 2004-2007. The siblings join their father whose ties to the program include being the volunteer assistant coach in 2014.
Since he graduated from Arizona in 2005, Dyck has put together a successful career in club, junior college and Division I volleyball in both the men’s and women’s games. His run includes winning the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 2013 while coaching at Central Arizona College and coaching in USA Volleyball’s High Performance program, which is tasked with identifying and developing future Olympians.
Despite those successes elsewhere, Arizona has been special to the family since Dyck was very young.
“Even if you’d go back to when I was in sixth and seventh grade, my family’s always been very close with Dave,” Dyck said. “And we have been lifelong Wildcat fans because of Dave. And we have some other uncles and aunts that have played sports also at the U of A. So I grew up almost a Wildcat. So when Dave told me when I was a junior in high school that I had a chance to come work for him out of high school, that was amazing. I learned a ton as a manager, not only from Dave about volleyball, but also how to work hard, how to be organized, how to connect with players, then obviously, coach. I was at Central (Arizona College). Did a lot of stuff with club. Was an assistant at Eastern Washington, and kind of came back full circle.”
That circle began before Dyck was even born. Rubio spoke of growing up in the same neighborhood as the elder Dyck and looking up to him as a mentor. Closing it fit into what the long-time Arizona head coach was looking for when it came time to replace Gregg Whitis.
“I can tell you that loyalty and trust, if you ask the head coaches how important that is when they hire an assistant,” Rubio said. “And I think there’s enough coaches who’ve been out there for any length of time will tell you that they’ve been on both ends of that. They’ve had unbelievable coaches that have watched their back and been able to be loyal and trustworthy, hard-working, and fulfill all the criteria that you want an assistant coach to fill. And then you’ve hired some coaches that maybe haven’t done as good a job with that. Here I am in the back end of my career. I have four to five years left. I wanted to be with somebody who in my mind was almost like family... And so for me, as I kind of finish up my round of golf here, I think it’s really important... Rita (Stubbs) [is] family for me, and Matt is like that with me as well, and Gregg was like that for me.”
The family history didn’t just make Dyck an obvious candidate for Rubio when the Wildcats had an opening. It also made Arizona an obvious candidate for Dyck.
“When Greg decided to resign for his health reasons, Dave reached out and asked if I would be interested,” Dyck said. “And talking a lot with Dave about his philosophy and where he sees things going, and obviously I’ve always been close with Dave and admired him and Rita. And for me, once I was offered the job, it was a very, very obvious yes.”
While Dyck will be replacing Whitis, he won’t be filling the exact same role. Whitis was known around the volleyball world as a tireless recruiter. His success in that role can be seen in this year’s class, which was ranked No. 7 in the country by John Tawa at Volley High.
While Dyck will be involved in recruiting, the role of primary recruiter will fall to Stubbs now, Rubio said. It will be Dyck’s first go at recruiting for a program in a major conference, but he has years of experience on the other side of things, working as the recruiting coordinator for the Zona Volleyball club.
Dyck’s expertise will instead be felt on the offensive side of the game. He will be tasked with developing the players who have all eyes on them.
“He’s going to be one of the trainers in the gym and someone who’s going to handle the day-to-day operation of the program,” Rubio said. “But for me Matt’s number one job is going to be the facilitation of the players’ relationship with the coaches and his ability to train the position, which will be outside hitters.”
From here, it’s a waiting game for all of the coaches. The Pac-12 has already cancelled all non-conference competition for fall sports. The program is still waiting for most of the players to return to town. But at least one question has been answered.
For the Dyck family, that’s a reason to celebrate and look to the future.
“I feel pretty ready to hop in and help,” Dyck said. “It’s just really special to be back here. And obviously my wife and kids are stoked, my mom and dad are thrilled and my sister couldn’t be happier. So it’s pretty neat that I get to be back here doing what I love.”
Odds and ends
- Rubio said that if the volleyball season were to be moved to the spring, he and women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes would have to talk about the Lauren Ware question. Ware is at Arizona on a basketball scholarship, but plans to play both sports and is considered an “impact player” for both programs. He said that they probably won’t discuss it until such a move is announced by the Pac-12 or the NCAA.
- If indoor volleyball is moved to spring, it could also affect athletes who play both indoor and beach volleyball. For Arizona, that would include freshman Shelby O’Neal. Rubio said that this would not be a concern this year, because O’Neal is expected to redshirt in her first year with the indoor team.