Fisher brings experience, leadership to Pitt volleyball


Dan Fisher has been coaching at Pitt for three years. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

By Jessie Wallace / Staff Writer

By 2013, Dan Fisher already had a packed resume.

He had completed his collegiate volleyball career at University of the Pacific, participating on the U.S. men’s national team. He coached at four different college programs, compiling an undefeated season at one of them. He served as the offensive coordinator on the 2012 gold medal-winning women’s Pan American Cup team.

With those achievements in tow, he decided to bring his talents to Oakland, becoming the eighth head coach in Pitt women’s volleyball team history.

Since, he has added on to his career accolades, revitalizing a stagnant program —  he brought the Panthers to the brink of an NCAA tournament berth, and eventually served as the 2015 head coach of the U.S. national team in the Pan American games.

After two succesful seasons at Pitt — and a third promising campaign underway, Fisher has his program poised for postseason appearances and individual accolades in the future. But his career on the court began years ago on the opposite end of the country.

As an athletic, skinny 6-foot-3 male who grew up playing volleyball in Santa Barbara, California, where the sport is prominent due to perpetual sunshine and warmth and an abundance of beaches, Fisher’s “immersion” into the volleyball world happened naturally. Through his earlier playing days, Fisher had dreamt of one day playing professionally — and eventually, becoming a coach. Needless to say, he surpassed both of those goals in multiple facets.

After playing at Pacific, Fisher earned a spot as fourth-string setter for the U.S. men’s national volleyball team from 1999-2001. Fisher described the experience as a “tremendous honor.”

“I was a good player, I wasn’t great,” Fisher said. “I was good enough to play professionally for five years, and, in those summers, I was either playing with the national team or playing professionally on the beach.  It was a phenomenal experience, I made some great friends and obviously got to play the game at a really high level.”

Fisher didn’t just represent his country as a player, though. Some time after serving as an assistant in the 2012 Pan-Am games and taking the job at Pitt, Fisher received a call from the U.S. national Olympic team head coach Karch Kiraly. After some discussion, Fisher realized Kiraly wasn’t offering him another assistant role.

“It kind of became clear to me after five minutes that it was me who he was asking to be the head coach. He said he wanted me to lead the team and said that with our success here, that he’s seen how we’ve done with this program and as well as my familiarity with the system were kind of the factors.”

Fisher and the U.S. team went 5-1 and won gold in the July competition, beating Brazil with a three-set sweep.

Following international coaching success, Fisher’s focus returned to the collegiate game, as he prepared for Pitt’s 2015 season.

Fisher has proven to be the high-quality coach that his résumé would suggest. 

In his first season with the Panthers — and their first season in the ACC — Fisher managed to win 19 of 33 games. It was the highest number of wins in a single season since 2009. He led the team to achieve its highest kill-per-set ratio, total kills, assists-per-set ratio, total assists and total aces percentages since 2009 as well. He helped the Panthers improve from a .548 conference winning percentage in 2012, to a .576 percentage in 2013. 

With a successful volleyball enthusiast like Fisher to learn from every day, assistant coach Lindsey Campbell has relished in the opportunity to work with Fisher for the last five years, a relationship that began when the two coaches worked together at Concordia, Campbell’s alma mater.

The highlight of that Concordia run was the 2012 season in which they won the NAIA women’s National Championship, going 38-0 on the season.

“I have learned so much just from him being a part of USA volleyball and just in general,” Campbell said. “Going from NAIA to Division 1, like the demands and what you need to do to win.”

There have been several occasions when Campbell has witnessed a “great coach in action” — one particular instance remains fresh in Campbell’s mind.

“When we just lost to Virginia. A reffing call could have made us go into the fifth set, and it could’ve made the difference,” Campbell said. “But the way Dan handled the team talk afterwards, I just remember walking out of there and thinking ‘Yeah, that’s a great leader in there.’”

For Fisher, having a close friend and good coach come with him facilitated the transition from California to Pennsylvania.

“Lindsey is one of my family now,” Fisher said. “The single biggest thing when I came here was, you know, I had to hire a new staff. I was building all these new relationships, and so it was critical having someone like Lindsey here so I didn’t have to start a new relationship with her. She understands me and what I want to do.”

Fisher’s players have bought in to what he “wants to do.”

“I think he’s really motivated with everything he does, and, you know, he really loves volleyball — he really loves coaching,” senior hitter Amanda Orchard said. “He’s also honest with his players. That’s one of the best things about him. You never don’t know where you stand, there’s never anything sketchy going on. I think he’s honest, and that’s really good.”

Orchard had been on Pitt’s team for one season before Fisher became the head coach in January of her freshman year, following a season under the direction of Toby Rens. 

As for the transition between coaches, she could not have been more thankful for the new, highly-experienced head coach — who would eventually assist her in becoming a first team All-ACC selection.

“I’m so grateful, I mean, he coached a U.S. team,” Orchard said. “That’s crazy to be able be a player of a coach who coached for the U.S. national team. I mean, all I can say is I’m grateful he’s taught me so much. I couldn’t be happier to be in this program.”

Orchard said her coach’s career accomplishments speak for themselves.

“He’s done so much with volleyball that you can only trust that what he’s teaching is the best of the best,” Orchard said. “He motivates me to be the best that I can be in more than just volleyball.”

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