CMU introduces next head volleyball coach
Gawlik arrives after spending 11 seasons as an assistant at Michigan State
After a disappointing 2015 season and a resignation from its former head coach, the Central Michigan volleyball team has started its next chapter.
Former Michigan State Associate Head Coach Mike Gawlik was introduced Thursday as the the Chippewas' new head volleyball coach. The CMU athletics department said the deal is for five years with a starting salary of $85,000.
“My standards are incredibly high," Gawlik said. "I think we can turn this program into a program that can compete for (Mid-American Conference) championships and thus get into the NCAA Tournament and do some damage.”
Gawlik replaced Erik Olson, who resigned Dec. 1 after a nearly two-month investigation in which Olson was accused of having "unprofessional behavior towards the athletes."
His resignation was effective Dec. 31. Gawlik was hired 28 days later.
“I don’t think (the Olson situation) changes anything that I go about with player relations," Gawlik said. "I talked to the players and I said I would love not only to a coach and to teach them to play the game but I would love to be a mentor to them like my coaches were to me.”
Gawlik said Adam Rollman, the only assistant coach remaining from last season, will remain on staff. Former Associate Head Coach Theresa Beeckman was not brought back, and former volunteer assistant coach Kelly Maxwell was hired at Toledo.
CMU's new coach spent the past 11 seasons at Michigan State, where he met Rollman in 2011 and competed against him in 2012. Rollman was an assistant coach at Iowa.
Gawlik said he will look for a "top-level assistant" to aid Rollman and himself.
Director of Athletics Dave Heeke said Gawlik is a "tremendous addition" to the athletic program. Heeke added that Gawlik was identified as a top candidate early in the process.
“He’s got a clear vision on what it takes to run a volleyball program," Heeke said. "He’s built on philosophy. It’s clear on what he wants to do and how he’ll do it.”
Senior Associate Athletic Director Cristy Freese said CMU saw about 50 applicants. She said one aspect that stood out was his mentor at MSU — Head Coach Cathy George — and his longevity in East Lansing.
“Cathy George is a very well-respected coach in the volleyball world," Freese said. "To me, it stood out that he stayed at Michigan State for that long. I see that as a real plus. He’s really been with the program and seen a recruit from recruiting until they are finished with the program.”
Heeke said he talked with several head coaches and consulted with the American Volleyball Coaches Association before making the hire. Heeke added what made Gawlik stand out was his ability to develop student-athletes, his ability to recruit and his passion and energy.
“He knows what it takes to bring someone here," Heeke said. "He understands what type of athlete will be successful at Central Michigan. He’s a natural leader. You need that confidence and ability to be a leader and help others around you, and Mike has that.”
Gawlik played collegiate volleyball at Pacific University in California, but broke his foot during his senior year, which ended his playing career. He said he has never worked another job outside of volleyball and added he played it 12 months out of the year, and forgoed medical school for a career in coaching.
“That is when I truly saw the background I was pursuing at the time," Gawlik said. "I couldn’t imagine my life without volleyball for a second.”
He started as an volunteer assistant coach for the Spartans and helped the team make nine NCAA Tournament appearances. He was promoted to Associate Head Coach last year.
Gawlik is tasked with taking over a volleyball program that has missed the MAC Tournament for three consecutive seasons, and has not won the tournament crown since 2011. The team returns players such as outside hitters Jordan Bueter, Jessica Meichtry and Taylor Robertson, libero Jamison Wolffis and setter Kathia Sanchez.
Gawlik emphasized the team's high outside hitting percentage.
“I know that we can kill the ball," Gawlik said. "I think we can terminate at a high rate. I think we need to control the ball far better to put ourselves in a position to kill the ball at a high rate.”
Gawlik said he learned how to turn a program around while at MSU. The 2015 Chippewas finished 11-18 (6-10 MAC) and Gawlik said it will take a group of people to aid a overhaul of the program.
"There’s a couple of ways to turn a program around," Gawlik said. "I like to think of it as turning a train around. There’s no easy way to do that. You’ve got to get a bunch of people that are willing to do some heavy lifting and you’ve got to pick up the train and flip it 180 degrees. We need to have all hands on deck here to get the program going in the right direction.”
Gawlik met his new team Thursday morning and was encouraged by their meeting.
“I thought they were energized by a new beginning and a fresh start," Gawlik said. "Regardless of what happened last year, good, bad or indifferent, it is a fresh start.”
Gawlik also said he will seek to engage the fans and wants McGuirk Arena to be a family-friendly atmosphere.
“I think the product on the floor is going to be an engaging product," he said. "If we can create an engaging and energetic style of volleyball, it will contagious for the fans to want to come back night after night.”
Freese said she is excited for the future of the volleyball program.
“We have a talented team here already," she said. "We’re going to see improvement right away.”