After an unsuccessful search for a head coach, Grays Harbor College has decided to put the volleyball program on hiatus for a season while they continue to look for a qualified candidate.
Grays Harbor had four head coaching vacancies earlier in the spring and received a recommendation from the Northwest Athletic Conference that they should suspend any program the college hadn’t hired a head coach for by mid-May.
The school hired a new women’s soccer coach, women’s wrestling coach and women’s basketball in early May but was unable to find a head volleyball coach.
Grays Harbor College Vice President Jennifer Alt said she isn’t sure why the volleyball coaching vacancy didn’t attract more applicants.
“I wish I knew. I have no idea why that position has been difficult to fill,” she said.
The position was left vacant when former Grays Harbor volleyball coach Christine Nelson resigned a week after the conclusion of an investigation that found she had provided improper benefits to members of last season’s volleyball team.
The investigation concluded that Nelson had furnished at least one player’s apartment with pots and pans, an entertainment center, a sofa, TV, bed and kitchen furniture.
Nelson also helped one player pay rent with a loan of $750. She currently serves as the head volleyball coach at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, Oregon.
NWAC executive assistant Donna Hayes said schools in the conference rarely have to put a program on hiatus in the way Grays Harbor has had to.
“It’s not very common, but periodically some schools are going to have trouble hiring coaches,” she said.
Grays Harbor College used local connections to fill its other three coaching positions. Newly hired head women’s basketball coach, Robert Burton, was an assistant coach for the team last season and new women’s soccer coach Alan Carloza is also a Harbor resident.
Kevin Pine is originally from Elma and had been living in Las Vegas but chose to return to the Harbor to coach the women’s wrestling team alongside his brother, Phil Pine, who coaches the men’s wrestling team.
College president Jim Minkler said a lack of local interest from local candidates and a lack of interest from last year’s assistant volleyball coaches made it that more difficult to hire a head coach.
“We didn’t have anybody in the position of assistant coach in our women’s volleyball program that was able to step into a head coaching position,” he said. “Unlike women’s basketball, when Chad (Allan) left to coach at Hoquiam High School, his assistant coach Robert (Burton) was able to step up and take a head coaching position and that allowed us to make that switch. Robert was willing to do that.”
The college and the conference both wanted to see a volleyball coach hired before the middle of May so the new coach would have time to bring in new players to fill out the roster and have enough time to get settled into the role.
Minkler said the timing of Nelson’s departure put the college in a tough spot considering how long it would take to hire a new coach late in the recruitment season.
“After Christine (Nelson) left we didn’t have enough time to recruit,” he said. “It was late in the season when she was going to leave. Jennifer Alt talked to (NWAC Executive Director) Marco (Azurdia) and they had a conversation. He said that this late in the season, bringing in a coach and getting them established is not likely.”
Minkler also acknowledged that the salary for coaches can make it more difficult to attract candidates. Grays Harbor still has the volleyball position posted on a job board where the job is listed as part-time with an annual salary of $5,950.
Minkler spoke to members of the state legislature to see if there was any financial assistance the college could receive as it deals with its current budget deficit.
Other academic support programs were funded, but the athletics budget remained the same.
“If there had been any carry-over funding and we weren’t in deficit situation this year, we would have raised pay. One of our top requests was to increase the funding of our coaches,” he said. “We didn’t have the money to do it, so outside of a cost-of-living adjustment, there wasn’t a big bump in pay.”
Despite the difficulty the college has faced in filling the position, Minkler still believes the coaching position could be attractive to the right person.
“If you enjoy being part of a community that you’ll be known in and integrate into, this is a good community for that,” he said. “It’s not lost amongst four or five four-year institutions and you’ve got seven or eight high schools in a city environment where your school doesn’t event make it into the newspaper … you can actually give your athletes some attention.”