Long Beach State Volleyball

Long Beach State Women’s Volleyball Coach Tyler Hildebrand Leaves For USC

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Long Beach State women’s volleyball head coach Tyler Hildebrand left LBSU to take a job as a top assistant with USC last week, departing his alma mater after two seasons at the helm. 

“It was an incredibly difficult decision,” Hildebrand said in an interview Tuesday morning, saying he’s made four moves in his coaching career and never lost more sleep than he has with this choice. “This one was all the way down to the wire just a tough decision, it was really hard. I had a lot of young women here who came to play for me and believed in what we were building. That’s hard as a head coach when you leave that.”

Hildebrand was 40-19 at the helm and reached the Big West Tournament championship match last Fall, in a season that also saw the Beach beat the No. 1 team in the nation. He departs after two seasons in a massive loss for the Beach, after being their most highly-touted and respected hire in more than a decade. Hildebrand was the nation’s most sought-after assistant coach after helping lead Nebraska to a national title when he was hired by Long Beach State. He was also an All-American athlete at the Beach and a top assistant who helped recruit the NCAA champion LBSU men’s roster from the 2018 and ’19 title teams.

“Tyler has done a great job of elevating the women’s volleyball program in his two years at The Beach, and we’re certainly disappointed to see him move on,” said new LBSU athletic director Bobby Smitheran in a statement. “Our commitment to the women’s volleyball program the last two years has positioned us to compete for championships and provide a tremendous student-athlete experience. Coach Hildebrand has built a foundation for future success and we wish him the best as he explores new opportunities.”

Hildebrand emphasized that he wasn’t looking to leave the Beach but that the opportunity presented by USC was enticing.

“I was very excited about what we’re building and the future for Long Beach, they’re going to be really good in the Big West,” he said. “I’m really excited about the incoming recruiting class. USC was unique in that my family doesn’t have to move, we’re staying in Huntington…I know the USC AD fairly well, she’s a killer and she’s putting a lot into that program. They’re going to the Big 10 and they’ve got a ton of support. It’s a unique opportunity to join an up and coming thriving Big 10 program, and we didn’t have to move.”

Hildebrand added that Smitheran has brought a lot of energy back into the athletic department and praised him for making it an even harder decision.

“Bobby’s been awesome, (LBSU president) Jane Conoley has been awesome, and (LBSU senior associate AD) Mark Edrington has been my guardian angel, holding things together,” said Hildebrand.

Natalie Reagan, the team’s top assistant under Hildebrand, has been appointed as the program’s interim head coach through the upcoming 2024 season.

“Natalie is a proven winner throughout her volleyball career and has learned under some of the best coaches in the nation, and I am excited for her to take the reins of our women’s volleyball program,” said Smitheran. “Her on-court acumen and leadership style will position our current student-athletes for success while maintaining an eye to the future with her tireless recruiting work ethic, allowing the program to build upon the established positive momentum.”

Hildebrand’s departure is a red flag for fans and boosters of the Beach. A high-profile hire who was much-touted when he arrived and whose teams performed well in his tenure departing to take an assistant position at a better-funded university never feels good, especially when it’s a school in your backyard. 

Notably, Hildebrand was hired by former LBSU athletic director Andy Fee, who built a consistently competitive athletic department both within the Big West and increasingly at a national level–with wins over higher-ranked programs and postseason performances a regular occurrence. Several of Fee’s high-profile hires have departed in the year since he left to become the No. 2 in the athletic department at the University of Washington. Dirtbags coach Eric Valenzuela and women’s basketball coach Jeff Cammon are both now coaching at Saint Mary’s, and Hildebrand is leaving for an assistant position at USC. 

The Dirtbags and women’s volleyball teams have yet to play under those coaches’ successors, but the LBSU women’s basketball program is 8-14 this year after having gone 23-10 during Cammon’s last season with the team.

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Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.