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Mike Hebert not only helped build the University of Illinois volleyball program, he helped build the sport into the fan attraction that it has become.

At the highest levels of athletic competition, there are many, many great coaches.

Who’s the best? It’s an impossible argument to settle.

But there can be no higher praise for any coach in any sport than that lavished upon Mike Hebert, the former University of Illinois women’s volleyball coach who passed away earlier this week after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

“There was no better coach in our sport than Mike Hebert,” said Purdue’s Dave Shondell.

Truer words were never spoken, and Hebert’s record proves it.

He came to the UI in 1983 and turned what had been a mediocre program into an elite program.

Over 13 years here, his players won 323 matches, four Big Ten titles and competed in two Final Fours.

Illinois became a permanent power in a Big Ten Conference that became a permanent power on the national scene.

Last year’s Final Four appearance by the UI team was built on the foundation that Hebert laid.

It was bad news for the UI when Hebert took the head job at the University of Minnesota. But it was no surprise that he did the same thing there that he did here.

Hebert’s Gophers teams won 383 matches over 15 seasons, competing in three Final Fours.

That kind of sustained excellence is as rare as it is impressive.