Volleyball: Vuls go interim route, tab Leonard as coach in 2019

  • Chris Leonard will be familiar with the talent on hand when UH-Hilo's volleyball program reports for preseason practice next month. "I firmly believe that we have the talent it takes to be in the hunt again for a conference championship and regional playoff berth,” he said in a school release announced he's been selected interim coach.

UH-Hilo has ended its search for a volleyball coach – for now – by turning to a familiar face.

In somewhat of a surprise announcement, the Vulcans installed longtime assistant Chris Leonard on an interim basis, forgoing a permanent replacement for Gene Krieger until after the season.

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According to a school release, athletic director Patrick Guillen will begin a nationwide search for the full-time position after the season is over in December.

The last search started in April after Krieger’s departure, but, Guillen said in the release, “Ultimately, that late timeline made it difficult to fill the position. By this time of year, it is very challenging for coaches to consider a career move like this because of the commitments that they already have to their own programs.”

The announcement of new full-time coach had been expected for a few weeks.

Instead, just after 3:30 p.m. Friday, UHH revealed Leonard’s appointment.

“Chris is a great fit because of his established connection with our players and the program,” Guillen said. “We are very fortunate to have someone so passionate and committed to UH-Hilo, local volleyball and to our community overall. He is widely respected and I have no doubt that he will do a very good job for us this season.”

Leonard’s roots in the community, be it in volleyball or business, are indelible.

He’s served as the lead Vulcans assistant coach for the past five seasons, and he has more than 20 years of experience at the high school and club level, including with Pilipaa.

Leonard is also the president and general manager of New West Broadcasting Corp., the Hawaii-based organization that owns and operates Hilo stations such as KWXX (94.7 FM) and in 670 AM KPUA.

He inherits a Vulcan squad that finished 21-7 in 2018, including 17-5 and third place in the Pacific West Conference and returns 10 players with collegiate experience.

“I am excited to work with a really strong returning group of players, along with a great recruiting class,” Leonard said. “I am looking forward to building the foundation for what is already a very strong volleyball program. I firmly believe that we have the talent it takes to be in the hunt again for a conference championship and regional playoff berth.”

His selection means that Vulcans athletics isn’t slated to have a women’s head coach for any of its programs this school year.

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The department is trying to build momentum off last school year, when UHH showed marked improvement in the Commissioner Cup standings, finishing sixth of 12 teams in the Pac West, the Vuls’ best showing in 10 years.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Chris will be an excellent role model and mentor to our student-athletes,” Guillen said. “Guiding his players to the most complete student-athlete experience is a high priority for Chris. This is an exciting time for our Vulcans.”

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