Updated: Tamas hired as Illini volleyball coach

Updated: Tamas hired as Illini volleyball coach

Hear more from Tamas Saturday at 10:30 on WDWS.

CHAMPAIGN — The first thing some members of the Illinois volleyball team did when they were told Chris Tamas was going to be the eighth coach in Illini program history was hit Google.

That search revealed Tamas’ qualifications. An All-America playing career at University of the Pacific, four years with the U.S. Men’s National Team, a six-year professional career and eight seasons as an assistant coach including Big Ten stops at Minnesota and Nebraska.

Tamas’ wife, Jennifer, who will join him at Illinois as a volunteer assistant, boasts an equally impressive résumé as a four-time All-American at Pacific, U.S. Women’s National Team captain and an Olympic silver medalist from the 2008 Beijing Games.

“As soon as we read the experiences his wife and himself had, it was an immediate, ‘Yes, this is our guy,’ ” sophomore middle blocker Ali Bastianelli said. “We were so excited.”

The Illini came a long way in two weeks from what Bastianelli said was a combination of feelings when they found out former coach Kevin Hambly was leaving for Stanford.

Anger. Disappointment. Sadness. Happiness for their former coach but also regret that their final season together ended without an NCAA tournament appearance.

But now there’s excitement.

“He just seemed eager for the opportunity,” freshman defensive specialist Caroline Welsh said of meeting Tamas on Thursday night before he was officially announced as the new Illinois coach on Friday morning.

“Obviously, he has a great background and so does his entire family,” Welsh continued. “They live and breathe volleyball. He just came in and was very excited. He seemed nervous. I think that’s, honestly, really reassuring. We’re all going into this situation not really knowing what to expect.”

Tamas does have a feel for what to expect from his new team, though, at least on the volleyball court.

That’s part of the reason he left Nebraska after two seasons as an assistant and a national title in 2015.

Tamas game-planned against the Illini. He knows the talent he is inheriting, including a trio of players — Bastianelli, sophomore setter Jordyn Poulter and junior libero Brandi Donnelly — who earned honorable-mention AVCA All-America honors last season.

“Knowing their talent and knowing what they have and what’s here was important to me,” Tamas said. “I’ve been to programs where we’ve had to rebuild from the ground up. This is definitely not a rebuilding team.”

Tamas’ hire was announced 11 days after Hambly resigned to take the Stanford job. Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said the plan was always to move quickly to fill the job. He wanted the current team and the incoming 2017 recruits to have direction as soon as possible.

“These head coaches are just such a critical piece of our Illinois athletics community,” Whitman said. “Every time there is a void there, it’s a major source of tension. As the athletic director, I think that there are very few responsibilities I have — if any — that are more important than hiring head coaches.

“Of the many different things that kind of fall under my umbrella, inviting people into our family into that very critical role is the most important thing that I do. They are the ones that have the most direct involvement in our student-athletes’ day-to-day experience.”

Tamas was hired on a five-year contract with a $300,000 base salary. That’s a $100,000 increase in base salary from what Hambly was being paid.

Whitman also said the pool for assistant coach compensation had been “augmented” after it was raised when Erin Lindsey and Jason Mansfield were hired before the 2016 season.

Other than his wife maintaining her position as a volunteer assistant that she held at Nebraska and Cal Poly, Tamas said he hadn’t yet put together the rest of his coaching staff.

“What I’m looking for is a staff that I can trust and one that communicates really well,” Tamas said. “Some of the staffs that I’ve been on, you just have this unbelievable bond.”

Original story begins here.

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois didn't waste much time finding the eighth volleyball coach in program history, announcing the hire of Nebraska assistant Chris Tamas on Friday morning — just 11 days after former coach Kevin Hambly left to become the coach at Stanford.

“As expected, our coaching opportunity attracted widespread interest from coaches across the country, including many sitting head coaches,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “Chris stood out immediately. His breadth of experience as both a player and coach, his commitment to the personal growth and development of our student-athletes, his work ethic, and his fierce competitiveness are compelling. He has learned from some of the best coaches in the game, both collegiately and internationally, and we are excited for him to make his mark on Illinois volleyball.”

Tamas will take over at Illinois following eight years as an assistant coach. He spent the last two at Nebraska under John Cook, helping guide the Cornhuskers to the 2015 national championship. He also coached two years at Cal Poly, two years at Minnesota and two years at UC-Riverside.

“My family and I are extremely excited about the opportunity to coach at the University of Illinois,” Tamas said in a statement. “Huff Hall is one of the outstanding volleyball venues in the nation, and I’ve always thought the Spike Squad was awesome. Illinois has traditionally been one of the elite programs in the country and the Big Ten Conference is the premier volleyball league in the nation. I can’t wait to work with our team and prepare to compete against the best. I’ve seen this team play for the past two seasons and I’m excited with the level of talent we have and at the talent coming in. We look forward to hitting the ground running.”

Tamas was a four-year starter at Pacific and was a unanimous AVCA first-team All-American in 2003. He also played four years on the U.S. Men's National Team and spent six years playing professionally overseas in the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus and Finland.

Both Tamas and his wife, Jennifer, were on staff at Nebraska and Cal Poly, where she was a volunteer assistant. Jennifer Tamas was a four-time All-American at Pacific and won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as part of her four-year run as a U.S. Women's National Team captain.

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BruckJr wrote on February 10, 2017 at 12:02 pm


Brownshoe wrote on February 10, 2017 at 1:02 pm

I am so glad that we hired an assistant. What a breath of fresh air. This guy sounds fantastic.

Everybody talks about a "Home Run" hire to replace Gross. I think that is crazy. No college coach in that category would take the Illinois job.

But you know that there at least four or five assistants out there, that if given the chance, would end up being a home run. And that's what I want to see, not some guy who got lucky (maybe had a player who got hot in the tourney and made the coach look great,) and came to Illinois and was out of his league, as Gross is the perfect example.

I don't want Gross or another Gross, I want young, energetic, AND WHO CAN SELL, for recruiting boils down to salesmanship. If he can sell, he will keep the current recruits and get even more. 

Sorry to turn the subject to Gross, but the hiring of an assistant got me so excited that it just spilled over.

If Whitman could hire a new BB coach with a resume equal to Tamas', I'll be ecstatic.

dmlawyer wrote on February 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Illinois is firmly established as a stepping stone school for coaches

Jam wrote on February 10, 2017 at 6:02 pm

If an assistant is to be hired then let it be Roger Powell.


Brownshoe wrote on February 10, 2017 at 8:02 pm

No, let it be a great recruiter. I am not particularly keen on Jerrance Howard, but if we were to hire a past Illini, he would be the best recruiter.


To think we should have to hire an ex-Illini is in-the-box thinking in more ways than one.

sanjuan wrote on February 11, 2017 at 7:02 am

So how is it the DIA continues to get waivers of hiring rules even for a non-emergency hire?   For the more lowly amount us on campus a simple hire of someone in the civil service system can easily take a month.  The chancellor has indicated the provost search could take 8 months at a minimum. But Whitman gets to act as a committee of one and apparently has a waiver of EEO requirements.  Nice little kingdom there on Fourth Street. 

Brownshoe wrote on February 11, 2017 at 10:02 am

Well, I suspect you have it exactly backward.

I'm sure Whitman met all EEO requirements and just acted quickly.

On the other hand, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, over in the Big Kingdom, take months just trying to figure out if they should pick their nose or not. That requires more than a simple majority, you know?