Created on Thursday, 17 January 2013 05:57 Written by Torie Wytiaz / Staff Writer
As the Pitt volleyball team prepares for next season, it will do so under a new head coach with championship experience.
Just one month after leading the volleyball team at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., to an undefeated season and its first NAIA championship, Dan Fisher joins the Panthers ahead of their first season as members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. He replaces Toby Rens, who spent five years leading the Pitt volleyball team before leaving the program last month and taking a job at Chicago State University.
“[Rens’] contract was not renewed. It was a personnel decision. We’re going to decline further comment beyond that,” Pitt athletics spokesman Ted Feeley said.
For Fisher, the opportunity to coach in the ACC is a welcome challenge.
“I would say that the ACC is probably the third strongest conference in the nation with about 5 teams that can make the NCAA tournament. I am looking forward to competing with the best teams in the country," he said. "If we can be competitive in the ACC, that means that we can be successful at the national level.”
Fisher was the head coach at Concordia for two years, and his Eagles compiled a record of 75-2 under his watch. Before this year’s title-winning campaign, the Eagles finished the 2011 season as runners-up, and Fisher was named NAIA Coach of the Year. In 2012, the Eagles compiled a perfect record and Fisher was once again honored with the Coach of the Year designation.
“It was hard to say goodbye to a successful team. We only had one girl from the championship team graduate. I made good friends there and became a better coach," he said in an interview Thursday afternoon. "Hopefully I can use those teaching skills to help the Pitt girls become successful both on and off the court. I believe that that will translate to wins here as well.”
The Pitt athletic administration is looking forward to the culture of winning that it believes Fisher will bring to a Pitt volleyball program that has made the Big East Tournament for the past five years.
“We are very excited to welcome Dan Fisher to Pitt to lead our volleyball program,” said Steve Pederson, Pitt’s athletic director. “Dan has a proven track record as a winner and brings a unique set of skills and background to this position. Volleyball is important to Pitt, and we were committed to finding a coach to build upon the history and traditions of this program. I am grateful to [Executive Associate Athletic Director] Donna Sanft, who led the search, and excited that it concluded with such a terrific coach. We look forward to working with Coach Fisher to help him achieve great things at Pitt.”
Sanft agreed with Pederson and noted that Fisher’s leadership skills will allow him to impact his players both on and off the court.
“Dan is a great fit at this University,” Sanft said. “He has been a winner at every level as a player and a coach. He is a great leader who has high aspirations for our players, athletically and academically. We are excited for the future of Pitt volleyball with Dan as our head coach.”
Fisher met with the team for the first time last night.
“The team seems like a nice group of girls who were just excited to get in the gym and get to work," he said. "From an attitude standpoint, they are right where they need to be. They are eager to start playing volleyball and I am looking forward to that as well.”
In addition to a successful two seasons at Concordia University, Fisher also has experience in coaching at the University of Hawaii. From 2009 to 2011, he served as the associate men’s head coach and helped the team earn a No. 4 national ranking in 2010.
Fisher was also able to achieve coaching success at the professional level. In July of 2012, he was an assistant coach for the women’s gold medal-winning U.S. national Pan-American Cup team. Fisher’s primary duties were working with the team’s setters and planning offensive systems and tactics.
His volleyball knowledge stems from his time playing at the University of the Pacific as well as five years spent playing professionally in Belgium, Spain and Switzerland. He also spent five years on the AVP Professional Beach Volleyball Tour.
Fisher was initially impressed with the Pitt program and sees the atmosphere as one in which he can succeed, both in volleyball and on a personal level.
“It became clear to me throughout the interview process what a special place Pitt is,” Fisher said. “From my wife and my daughter, we are all excited to make this move. I want to thank Steve Pederson and Donna Sanft for the work they did to make us feel at home.”