Youngstown -- Mark Hardaway has been on the bench for 344 victories at the Division I level, and he is looking forward to extending his background of winning to Youngstown State University as the Penguins' new volleyball coach. YSU Executive Director of Athletics Ron Strollo announced the hiring on Jan. 11, 2012.
Hardaway, who most recently was an assistant coach at Bowling Green, becomes the ninth head coach in program history. He takes over for Krista Burrows, who resigned in December to work in a family business venture outside of the area.
"We're very excited to have someone with Mark's experience and character lead our volleyball program," Strollo said. "Throughout the interview process, he showed that he is very passionate about volleyball and helping us to reach new heights. He has a strong background with head coaching experience at two Division I schools, and he has developed many ties in Ohio and the Midwest from his years at Bowling Green. Mark also had many outstanding personal references about him as a person and his dealings with student-athletes."
Hardaway, who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, echoed Strollo's excitement about the future.
"First of all, I would like to thank Ron Strollo and Elaine Jacobs for this amazing opportunity to lead the Youngstown State University volleyball program," Hardaway said. "I consider it an honor to be asked to lead a Division I volleyball program, and I am very excited about the potential of the Penguins Volleyball. I can't wait to meet the team and get to work."
"During my visit to YSU, I was most impressed with the people I met and how much they cared about the University, the athletic programs, and the community," Hardaway added. "The facilities, academic programs, and support programs you need to be successful are all in place at YSU. But, at the end of the day, the people make the biggest difference. They want to win, but they also care about the people involved in the process. There was a genuine love for the University and respect for each other. I want to be associated with people who strive to excel and do it the right way. I know I have found that at YSU."
Hardaway has spent 24 years as a collegiate coach, with 10 years each as an assistant at Bowling Green and a Division I head coach. He served two stints at Bowling Green coaching with Denise Van De Walle. He was on her bench for two seasons from 1991-92, and he returned for another eight seasons from 2004-11. In between, he was the head coach for two years at Western Kentucky and eight years at Evansville.
With Hardaway on the bench, Bowling Green went 206-122 and had 25 All-Mid-American Conference selections. The Falcons finished with at least 20 wins in five of those 10 seasons. Bowling Green went 29-5, won the MAC Tournament Title, advanced to the NCAA Tournament and finished ranked 19th in the final NCAA poll in his first season in 1991. The Falcons then went 30-8 and finished as the runners-up in the National Invitation Volleyball Championships in 1992. Bowling Green had six winning seasons and a pair of second-place finishes in the MAC East Division upon his return.
He twice served as interim head coach while Van De Walle was with the USA Women's National Sitting Team at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympics and led the Falcons to a 15-3 mark. BGSU went 7-1 and won the Marquette Challenge with Hardaway at the helm in 2008. The Falcons then went 8-2, including a 4-0 record at the West Virginia Invitational and a 2-0 start in MAC play, in 2008 under Hardaway.
Hardaway inherits a program that showed drastic improvement toward the end of the 2011 season and has solid young players to build around. The Penguins won three of their final five matches, including Horizon League victories over UIC and Loyola at home. YSU won three more matches in 2011 than the previous season and earned more than double the set wins from 2010. Sophomores and freshmen accounted for 94.7 percent of the team's kills, 92.5 percent of its blocks and 76.3 percent of its digs.
"There are so many factors involved in building a winning tradition that include things like skill level, athleticism, gym culture, work ethic, and team chemistry," Hardaway said. "Once I have a better idea of the program's needs, we can come up with a plan to compete with the top teams in the League. We will have to work hard and we will have to have high expectations."
Hardaway earned his first Division I head coaching job in 1993 and proceeded to go 45-27 in two seasons at Western Kentucky. Hardaway coached two All-Sun Belt selections, two all-tournament picks and five academic all-conference honorees in his two seasons with the Hilltoppers.
Hardaway went on to coach Evansville for eight seasons and led the Purple Aces to their first winning season in 10 years in 1998. In 2000, Hardaway's team set school records for most Missouri Valley Conference wins (10) and highest MVC finish (fifth) that still stand today. His players went on to earn 11 all-conference, five all-newcomer and 20 academic all-conference selections. Two Aces were also drafted into the U.S. Professional Volleyball League.
Hardaway's first head coaching job at the collegiate level came at Defiance College. He spent two years at the college in Northwest Ohio and led the Yellow Jackets to their second winning season in 10 years with a 19-16 record in 1990. Prior to that, he spent a year each as an assistant at Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern State College.
Outside of volleyball, Hardaway also served as the head diving coach at Western Kentucky and a facility coordinator at Defiance.
He was an accomplished varsity diver for two seasons at Evansville before turning his attention to volleyball. Hardaway played on the club team at Eastern Kentucky in 1980 and the varsity team at Cincinnati in 1981.
Hardaway earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from Missouri Southern State in 1988. He and his wife, Ann, have two sons - Christopher and Matthew.