CSU, DU among Buffaloes’ backers
BOULDER» When the results were final and the Colorado volleyball team punched its first ticket to the Sweet 16 in two decades, the cellphone belonging to Buffaloes coach Jesse Mahoney was constantly abuzz.
“I think probably everyone’s phones were blowing up,” he said. “People want to talk to you when you’re winning, that’s for sure, right?”
No doubt about that. But there’s also no denying the unique demographic that called or texted Mahoney when CU defeated Baylor in straight sets last week in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32, and it’s the same group that will be in his corner Friday when the Buffaloes face Nebraska at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. Few Sweet 16 coaches will have Mahoney’s level of universal statewide support, because few are as ingrained in their collegiate volleyball communities.
Mahoney, a Boulder native, earned a pair of CU degrees in the late 1990s, and his first varsity coaching gig was as an assistant at Colorado Christian. From 2005 to 2011, Mahoney was part of Tom Hilbert’s staff at Colorado State, including four as an associate head coach. And before Mahoney’s time at CU, he was the head coach at the University of Denver over four seasons.
Mahoney helped to develop and maintain winning cultures at CU, CSU and DU; all three programs reached the NCAA Tournament this year. And his contributions aren’t forgotten.
“There is probably an image that we’re bitter rivals or whatever,” Hilbert said, “but there is a lot of support among all of us.”
Said DU coach Tom Hogan: “We’ve been kind of cheering each other on throughout this season. Our programs and our coaching staffs are really close.”
As an assistant in Fort Collins, Mahoney was responsible for three recruiting classes ranked in the national top 25 by prepvolleyball.com. He later led DU to its first NCAA postseason berth, and now, just two seasons in at CU, he has the Buffaloes in the Sweet 16 — a height they had not reached since 1997.
“I’ve been a part of three of those programs and I know the people there are all really quality people,” Mahoney said. “They really prioritize volleyball, which is really good for our sport.”
Asked to define Mahoney’s coaching style, Hilbert said: “He’s intelligent, cerebral and understands how to teach.” And, when it comes to team goals, the final destination is never the focus.
“(Mahoney) puts a big emphasis on baby steps,” CU senior Joslyn Hayes said. “Jesse and the coaching staff have always talked about getting better 1 percent each day. That puts the emphasis on ‘I can’t control what’s going to happen three games from now and I can’t control what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I can control what’s going to happen right now.’ I think that’s a huge mind-set that everyone has.”
Mahoney appreciates the statewide support. But reflection on a terrific season can wait. There are still matches to be won.
“I’ll think about what we’ve done this year after this year is over,” Mahoney said.
CU head volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney is a former DU head coach and a former CSU assistant.