Jan. 23, 2014
McRoberts Sees Promise, Sets Goals For Year One
Executive Associate Athletics Director, Lynnette Johnson
"Good morning. Welcome to the Gillom Sports Center, the unique and intimate environment of Ole Miss volleyball. We gather to celebrate the naming of Steven McRoberts as our next women’s volleyball coach. Steven has 17 years of head coaching experience, 475 wins, 10 conference coach of the year trophies, six 30-win seasons and multiple trips to the NCAA Tournament. When our search committee got together: Ross, myself, Julie Owen and Kimsey O’Neal (former Ole Miss women’s basketball star) we talked about the coach we wanted. We talked about three needs: A good person. Check. A coach that wanted to be at Ole Miss. Check. And a winner. Check. Coach McRoberts agreed during our process that Ole Miss volleyball can be successful and that we can consistently be in the top half of the Southeastern Conference and go to the NCAA Tournament. We talked about how we believe, as Ross has told us, every team can compete for and win championships. So, today, please join me in welcoming our newest head coach Steven McRoberts and his family, although they were unable to be here today, to Ole Miss and Oxford."
Head Coach Steven McRoberts
"I want to thank a few people and I have been so blessed. I just thank God for this journey - this wonderful journey of 17 years, starting my 18th year in being a head coach and at the college level. It’s hard for me to believe 18 years ago when I was a graduate assistant at Henderson State University that I would end up at such a great university like Ole Miss, and it is a little overwhelming at times. I just feel so blessed to be here in front of you accepting this position. I do wish my beautiful wife Stacy could be here and she wishes she could be here, too. She came on the interview. It took a really short time for me to realize I was sold on Ole Miss, Ole Miss athletics and Ole Miss volleyball, and I wanted to be here. At one point, I told Lynnette and Ross that you guys got me so y’all can stop selling me - you’re going to have to convince my wife because she’s going to be the deal-breaker in this thing. She loved it here. She loved Ole Miss and she loved Oxford. Once we get the house sold in Tulsa, I will be really glad for those of you that did not get the chance to meet my wife, to meet her and our three kids - Jackson who is three years old, Molly who is the diva of the family is six, and Nathaniel will turn one next month. I am excited to get everybody here and get us all engaged.
"I am definitely thankful to Lynnette, Ross, and the committee for giving me this opportunity and having faith in me to run the Ole Miss volleyball program. There are a lot of good things in place; we already have a lot of good student athletes here. We are looking forward to having success in year one. Like Lynnette said, we are looking to be successful in the Southeastern Conference right away. The Southeastern Conference had eight teams make the NCAA Tournament last year, so it is our goal to be a part of that group next year.
"Any time you go through a process like this there are so many humbling moments. I met with the team yesterday and I know that they are as excited as I am to get started. I just told Lynnette before I came up here that you just want to get through the first week and all of the formalities, press conferences, and team meetings where we are just trying to get to know each other, and you can get comfortable and just get on the court and start working. We are all looking forward to that. One thing that I promise you is we are going to have a team that is going to work hard and we are going to have student athletes that are going to make you proud. We’re going to do our best to represent Ole Miss at the highest level in everything we do. I am excited to be here and I am ready to get started, so thank you."
On the current team:
"To be honest I don’t know a whole lot about the team yet. I have gotten some film so I can go ahead and start watching, but once we get on the court we can start evaluating right away. If you look at match and game scores last year, you’re going to see that they were competitive in a lot of the matches and that was one of the things I told the team yesterday. Let’s get together and figure out why we are losing all of these four and five set matches. We want to be a team that when we get in those situations that we are winning those and confident we are going to win those. A lot of the team is coming back from last year, so I know they want to win, and I do too. I don’t know anything different."
On expanding the fan base:
"You have to win. I think people like to come see winners. We are going to play an exciting style and an up-tempo offense. What we want to do is to have student-athletes that are engaged in the community as well. That is our jobs as coaches and players is that we give the fans a product that they want to come back and keep watching. I have had friends throughout the year that have never been to a volleyball match and then, because of me, they came to watch and were really shocked at how exciting the game is and how athletic these young ladies are. We just have to get them here to see it and I think they will want to come back."
On prior familiarity with Ole Miss:
"This was a great move for me professionally, but also a great move for my family. My wife’s family is from Murfreesboro, Tenn., and my family is in Little Rock, Ark. There’s not going to be too many jobs I could have taken that would have been a good move career-wise and also put us in a position family-wise where we are almost right in the middle of both. I told them when we interviewed, that Ole Miss had been on my radar for a while. It is definitely one of the places that you look at for female student-athletes and athletes in general that is a very welcoming atmosphere. I think for the volleyball culture, getting them here on campus and seeing what we have is big and we can grow from that. I had been on the campus before back in college. When I took the Tulsa job from Central Arkansas, we were supposed to come here to a tournament. The coach that followed me had a lot of nice things to say about Ole Miss."
On the transition to his up-tempo style of play:
"Once we get in the gym, we will see how fast they catch on. There is always that time period where you use a little different terminology or run a different drill. The players are so used to doing things a certain way for so long. When you have juniors who have been doing it for three years, you have some things you have to work out, which will be harder than for the freshmen who have only been in here for one year. We are going to set the ball fast to the middles and try to keep the ball at a good pace to the pins. One thing we talked about in the team meeting yesterday and one thing I think I am pretty good at is adjusting to the talent and putting them in a position to be successful. So, it is not like we come in and say, ‘This is the only way we do things,’ and try to make a square peg fit in a round hole and be stubborn. We are going to look and see what we have and utilize our talent accordingly."
On his head coaching experience coming into the SEC:
"I think that Tulsa definitely prepared me for this job, and I am thankful for the opportunity they gave me for the three years I was there. I don’t think I would have been ready coming from Central Arkansas and definitely not from Lubbock Christian. At Lubbock Christian I was the only coach on staff so I had to do everything. Then at Central Arkansas you add a few pieces, and at Tulsa you add a few more. One year at Tulsa we played three teams that ended up in the Final Four that year. Being in the top 50 RPI in all three years at Tulsa and making it to the NCAA Tournament a couple times and playing Florida in the first round a couple years ago, I know from playing a lot of the SEC teams at Tulsa what to kind of expect already. I know we need to be prepared every match in the SEC and that is probably the biggest difference in Conference USA and the SEC, the different level of matches on a consistent basis. There are two or three teams you are consistently worried about in C-USA, whereas in the SEC it is going to be all of them."
On the biggest challenge in year one:
"I have been a part of two rebuilds, and when I went to Tulsa it was a program that had already established itself. I would say when you are going into a program that was 14-17 a year ago; the biggest thing is getting the players to believe that they can win and instilling that competitiveness and confidence in them for those close matches. That is going to be at the top of the list for us. We’ve got a lot of good players here and it’s going to be coming into year one, and establishing that we are not going to accept anything else."