Volleyball hires new head coach

(CONTRIBUTED/ John Kelley)
(CONTRIBUTED/ John Kelley)
Athletics Director Jeremy McClain announced Thursday that Josh Lauer, a former nine-year associate at Georgia, will take over as head coach for the Trojan volleyball team.
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Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

After a nearly two-month-long national coaching search, Troy has announced the hiring of a new volleyball head coach in Josh Lauer.

The hiring comes after 11-year Head Coach Sonny Kirkpatrick resigned his position on Nov. 15 following a 10-23 season.

Officially hired on Jan. 12, Lauer comes to Troy after spending the last six years as an associate head coach at Georgia. While at Georgia, Lauer served primarily as a defensive assistant and helped the team lead the Southeastern Conference in blocks in 2014.

Lauer arrived in Georgia after three years at Alabama as an assistant and recruiting coordinator. As recruiting coordinator, Lauer oversaw the landing of Alabama’s first top-30 recruiting class in 2010.

He started his coaching career in St. Louis, where he coached eight seasons at the club level before becoming the head coach at Missouri-St. Louis.

Lauer arrives in Troy with a sense of familiarity and excitement.

“My wife and I were excited about moving into the head coaching position and staying in the South, the area of the country we know,” Lauer said in an interview with The Tropolitan on Tuesday. “It fits the recruiting base and the coaches I’ve worked with the last 10 years. It turned out to be a pretty good fit.”

It is no secret the volleyball program has been stagnant, producing just two winning seasons in the last 13 years. Lauer notes the importance of shifting the attitude and creating a winning environment off the court in order to produce more victories on the court.

“I think that changing the culture is our No. 1 goal, and that started from day one. Letting the team know that we are going to care about them and that we are going to set very clear standards as a team. It’s about creating a culture that’s bought in both on and off the court.”

Oftentimes, the toughest decision a new coach has to make is how to balance the senior’s playing time with the younger players who will be in the new system for several more years. Some coaches choose to play the seniors, while others choose to develop the underclassmen. Lauer made it clear he will not lean toward either, nor will he attempt to straddle the fence.

“It’s a clean slate. Our job as a new staff is to put the best team on the floor in the fall. Our job as a team is to buy into being the best team that we can be. They are going to have to earn it every day in practice.”

Laying out clear goals is a priority for new coaches, and Lauer mentioned the importance of the first goal being to reach the postseason.

“Our first step is we need to get back into the conference tournament. I think that is our first step, then we can talk about what’s next. We want to compete at the top of the Sun Belt and be a conference contender year in and year out. That doesn’t happen overnight, so we have to set our goals strategically and realistically, and the first step to do that is getting back into the conference tournament.”

This was a statement hire by Troy University.

Kirkpatrick coached 11 seasons and resigned with a .407 winning percentage. The athletic department could have easily hired another stand-in coach to merely keep the program afloat.

Instead, Athletic Director Jeremy McClain found and hired a coach with the proven ability to recruit in the state of Alabama and a strong defensive background.

Lauer will have plenty of time to get to know his players as they prepare and look forward to their 2017 season opener.