New coach sees potential in USC volleyball team

New boss · Brent Crouch, USC women’s volleyball’s new head coach, has had an outstanding coaching career, most notably at the University of Portland. (Sam Arslanian | Daily Trojan)

Daily Trojan: Your wife is from Palos Verdes, Calif. Did this job motivate you move to there?

Brent Crouch: Definitely. I wanted to find a job as I moved up the coaching ranks that would allow me to compete for a national championship. So check the box here at USC. And the other big consideration was being around family. We’ve got two little kids. A one-year-old and a two-year-old. Boys. And my wife grew up here and her parents are still here in Palos Verdes. And being able to come to work here every day with this program and see them, the grandparents in the evening with the kids is awesome.

DT: You had a couple of great years at Portland. What made the job at USC appealing to you?

Crouch: I always have wanted to coach and teach at the highest level possible. And as you know one of the five characteristics of being a Trojan is ambition, and I share that, and this feels like home in the sense that that’s just everybody’s goal is trying to win the whole thing. That’s always what I wanted to do, so that made it in addition to the family, it made it number one for me.

DT: Perhaps one of your most notable accomplishments is how you revived a struggling Portland program to its winningest season in 25 years. Obviously this group of girls is a little different in the sense that they are a winning team, but what areas of improvement do you see for this team?

Crouch: I think the game is moving at a different speed now; things are just getting faster and faster and faster. So you got to have some systems in place that allow you to play at that speed. At Portland, there was a lot more fundamental work that had to be put into place. And the fundamentals here, everybody needs to get better at it always. At every single level, you never stop teaching the fundamentals of passing and serving and so on. Those are the building blocks, but there was already a pretty solid base here already of that, at the level among the athletes in terms of what they can do physically.

DT: In an article from USC Athletics, your former colleague at St. Mary’s, Rob Browning, talked about how much of your success is derived from your academic background. How does that background play into your role as a coach?

Crouch: “I’m a John Wooden fan […] and he talked a lot about being a teacher. And [that] people who wanted to be coaches should go get a teaching background first and I’m of the same mindset. Coming from a family of teachers, teaching has always been a priority for me. So I think it just dovetails nicely for me.

DT: To what extent and in what way does your experience as a player affect the way you coach your teams?

Crouch: I think it’s not absolutely necessary to play to be a good coach. […] but I think if you’re able to play at a high level for a long period of time, and I played at a medium high level, higher on the beach, you’ve got a sense for maybe some of the nuances and fundamentals and things that are helpful. But the  bigger piece, though, is that you’ve been in the environment, so it may be a little bit easier to connect with student-athletes cause you’ve been there before.

DT: What is your reaction to replacing Mick Haley? (the former head coach who was let go after serving 17 years with the Trojans)

Crouch: Oh, gosh. I hope at the end of my career I can say I’m even half as successful as he was. The guy was, and is, just a phenomenal coach. These are really, really big shoes to step into and it’s an honor to be a part of the tradition here and be selected to be the next coach. I’m also confident in what I do and I think it’ll be a little different, but I’m excited to get started.

DT: What should fans look forward to seeing this year?

Crouch: The game is going to look a little bit different in terms of systematic stuff. The offense is going to be fast and it will be fast in more situations than it has been in the past, so that will be fun. We’ve got a really new team, we’ve graduated four starters from last year. That’s a big number. And we’ve brought in six new players this year, four freshmen and two transfers, and three of them are going to get significant playing time right away. So it’s going to look quite different in terms of the faces out there and the style of volleyball. But we are bringing back two of the big guns, Khalia [Lanier] and Brook [Botkin]. So I think in those two positions in particular it’s going to be really fun to watch them.