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Former Arizona middle blocker Cursty Le Roux making her mark in coaching with Texas volleyball

NCAA VOLLEYBALL: DEC 17 Division I Women’s Championship - Teams vs Team Photo by David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As Cursty Jackson, Texas assistant coach Cursty Le Roux made her mark as a middle blocker for Arizona volleyball during the transition from the Pac-10 to the Pac-12. The UNLV transfer helped the Wildcats to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances while getting all-conference recognition both years in Tucson. Now, just a few years into her coaching career, she’s experienced what it means to win a national title as an assistant coach for the Longhorns.

Even in her playing days, Le Roux showed signs that she could be a good coach. After her college career, she went on to play eight seasons overseas and with USA Volleyball. She was able to use skills she always had on the court when it came time to take the next step in her life.

“It was such a flawless and an easy transition for me,” Le Roux said. “I felt like even as a player, I was always coaching. I would always take the youngest player on my team and mentor them, and I think mentorship is just such a passion of mine. So, as I came to the end of my career, it just seemed like this was what my path would be. And so it was pretty easy.”

Former Arizona head coach Dave Rubio had a hand in making it happen for her, something Le Roux said she is extremely grateful for. He saw the signs of a good coach. He just didn’t know if she would want all of the trappings that come with being in NCAA volleyball.

Le Roux is married to Kevin Le Roux, who played in the Olympics for the French men’s team, and they have a son. Rubio knows that the time commitment of NCAA coaching isn’t for everyone, especially when it comes to family and sacrifice.

“There are a few players that I coached that I felt would easily make the transition into the coaching ranks,” Rubio said. “Cursty being one of them, Rita [Stubbs] being another one, and about a handful of others that I thought would really make that transition pretty smoothly and have the personality and the work ethic and all the kinds of the characteristics that I felt were important to become an outstanding collegiate coach. And Cursty I felt like really had all those characteristics in spades. I mean, she was energetic, had a really outgoing personality, had natural leadership skills, a hard worker, driven, very single-minded about getting things done. So I knew that she certainly had those types of things that I thought necessary to become a really good coach. The question was whether she really wanted to go into the coaching profession, given the fact that it requires so much sacrifice.”

Rubio also felt that Le Roux needed to be someplace where the head coach would value her input and allow her to do things her way. After spending a year coaching at UNLV on the staff that eliminated Arizona from the NIVC in 2021 and a year at Long Beach State, the Texas job came open.

“Dave helped me get into it because, after I finished playing, I didn’t know,” Le Roux said. “I felt so disconnected from NCAA volleyball. I had played for eight seasons. So he really had a hand in helping me and calling programs and coaches and that’s the reason why I’m at this job, too. That connection.”

Rubio has known Texas head coach Jerritt Elliott for decades.

“Jerritt started really his coaching career here with me and I was able to help him get his first job at USC,” Rubio said. “I’ve known Jerritt since he was just out of college.”

Elliott spent some time as an assistant coach with the Cal State Northridge men’s team. That’s Rubio’s alma mater. He also spent two seasons as the head coach of the USC women’s team before heading to Austin. When Le Roux let him know she was considering Texas, Rubio talked to both her and Elliott about the prospect.

“When she left Long Beach State, she was going into League One Volleyball, and doing the professional and kind of putting that together,” Rubio said. “So I was actually very surprised when Jerritt was calling me and saying, ‘What do you think?’ ‘Oh, my god, if you can get her, Jerritt, you gotta get her, because she’s got so many great intangible parts about her that would be great for your staff and the players will love her.’”

For Le Roux, the advice was about what she needed to be looking for in her next job. Rubio knew she wasn’t just a yes-woman. She wasn’t afraid to express her opinions and views on things. She would want to do some things her way. Rubio admits he was not always great about giving his assistants that kind of autonomy. He would micromanage too much, but he knew she would not be happy in that kind of environment.

“‘Cursty, you have to go in with these kinds of things,’” Rubio recalled. “‘I think, for you to be happy, you have to have autonomy. Your voice has to mean something, meaning that Jerritt is gonna listen to you and sincerely listen to you, and then follow through with maybe some of the suggestions and feedback that you’re giving. And, if not, you’re gonna be really unhappy.’ And so when she took the job, I’m like, ‘Okay, did you ask him all the questions?’ ‘Yes.’”

That autonomy is something Le Roux has valued in her first year with the Longhorns.

“I’ve learned a ton,” Le Roux said. “I think that Jerritt just creates this atmosphere where he gives all these coaches this autonomy to just be themselves and show their gifts, and so he never micromanages, at all. And I think that’s just so beautiful. I think our athletes can just see how we interact with each other. And then we just have such an incredible staff with Erik Sullivan, and then David Hunt, who’s our offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator. And they just let me come in and just be me and work with everyone. Have you seen me on the bench? I’m like, coaching everyone, and they don’t restrict me in any of that. So it’s just been great. And then being the recruiting coordinator, they really let me take the lead there and they guide me, but they also let me learn, so it’s been just an incredible journey so far.”

On the court, Rubio said he thought this was the best coaching job Elliott had ever done. Texas has sometimes had the reputation of being a great regular-season team that didn’t live up to its own expectations in the postseason. As Rubio noted, at a program like Texas, not getting to the Final Four is often considered a failure whereas other programs might be thrilled just getting to the round of 16. This year, though, the Longhorns peaked at the right time.

After opening the year with a loss at unranked Long Beach State, the Longhorns went on to drop two home matches against Pac-12 teams. Both Stanford and Washington State went into Austin and handled UT early in the year.

The team then got things going until a visit to unranked Kansas State in early November. The Wildcats swept the Longhorns in Manhattan. Was it something to just chalk up to “you can’t win them all” or was it a wake-up call for Texas?

“I think it was a little bit of both,” Le Roux said. “I think for elite athletes, you really have to be objective. Looking at statistics, looking at where you were emotionally, how we prepared as a staff, but also, it is just one game and our goal has always been to make it to that Final Four. So, what do we have to do to get there and not be so caught up in wins and losses, especially at the beginning? So, I think that’s been super powerful for us The Kansas State loss was tough, but it was also exciting because it really built this resiliency and this confidence.”

What Le Roux calls “calm confidence” helped the Longhorns rebound when they had to face Stanford again in the tournament. With a trip to the Final Four on the line and the match being played in Maples Pavilion, Texas showed that it wasn’t the same team that started the season.

“As a staff, we went back and we looked at that match again,” Le Roux said. “We all came back on Monday and said we are a complete different team...We tried to learn from it, but I think we did a lot of things differently in the second match. Just our systems and our connections was much stronger.”

It all culminated for Texas in Tampa with wins over Wisconsin and Nebraska to take its second national title in a row. For Le Roux, the year was nothing but positive and she’s ready to get started on the next one. Texas is starting a beach volleyball program this year, and that will take the attention of some of the players. The coaches will be busy trying to build another champion.

“I’m staying put in Texas,” she said. “We’re gonna hit the road and recruit. And our team, they will also be playing beach, so we have some time to really key in on our systems and in recruiting, and then we have a European trip planned this summer, so I’m super excited. I love Austin. I could never picture myself anywhere but Arizona, California, and Nevada, and now Texas is part of that. There’s a lot of Arizona connections here. So I’m just excited to prep for next season and try to three-peat at this point.”

If the Longhorns three-peat, it will be as a member of the SEC. This was their last year in the Big 12, but Arizona will be joining the league next year. Le Roux had her first experience with the league this season, and she thinks the Wildcats are stepping into a strong conference even without Texas.

“I think the Big 12 is a very strong conference, and they just have a history of winning,” she said. “At one point, I believe like half of the teams were ranked in the top 25. And so I’m excited for Arizona. I’m sad that I’m missing them because I would love to see all of those athletes and just to see Arizona. But I think they’re coming to a conference that’s extremely competitive, and just has a high level of volleyball and a history of success in postseason.”