After three years as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama, Ryan Wills returns to his alma mater as the Golden Hurricane head volleyball coach, it was announced today by TU Vice President & Director of Athletics Dr. Derrick Gragg.
Wills was born and raised in Tulsa and graduated from Wright Christian Academy before attending The University of Tulsa. He earned his bachelor's degree from TU in business administration in 2008.
Wills spent the past three seasons at Alabama under former Tulsa Head Coach Ed Allen. During those three years, the Crimson Tide posted an overall 53-44 record, including the most wins in school history with a 24-10 mark in the 2013 season. The 2013 Tide team also made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Before joining Allen at Alabama, the Tide had won just 19 matches the previous two seasons, and in their first two years the Tide posted 29 wins, including an 18-14 mark in the 2012 campaign.
"I'm excited to return to my alma mater and lead the volleyball program into a new era as we enter the American Athletic Conference," Wills said. "The University of Tulsa is a first class university that attracts the right kind of student-athletes. We have a lot of work ahead of us to keep positioning Tulsa volleyball as a top contender in the American Athletic Conference.
"I would like to thank President Steadman Upham, Dr. Derrick Gragg and Crista Troester (Senior Associate AD/Senior Woman Administrator) for this opportunity. My wife and I always viewed Tulsa as a special place to live and work," added Wills. "In addition, I would like to thank Ed Allen and all the special people at the University of Alabama over the last three years. Coach Allen mentored me in my own coaching style and for that I am ever grateful."
"We're excited to have Ryan and Evyn return to our University family," Gragg said. "Ryan has coached and learned under two outstanding coaches and it's evident that he has the experience and knowledge as a young coach to lead our volleyball program. He brings a tremendous work ethic and exuberance to this position and is passionate about The University of Tulsa and in leading our volleyball program."
Before joining Alabama, Wills was an assistant coach for the Golden Hurricane for the 2010 season under Allen. Tulsa posted a school-record 31 wins, including 30 straight victories, and winning the program's first NCAA Tournament match with a victory over 15th-ranked LSU. TU finished the 2010 season with a 31-3 overall record, a perfect 20-0 mark in Conference USA play, a conference regular-season crown, and ranked No. 20 in the country in the AVCA Coaches poll.
"Ryan is an excellent hire for The University of Tulsa," said Alabama coach Ed Allen. "You've got a guy who's very sold on being at Tulsa. It's a great opportunity for him to be able to be a head coach for the first time at a place that we both think is pretty special.
"He is a considerate and understanding person who will be a player-driven kind of coach. He'll do a great job of coaching those players to being everything they're capable of academically, athletically, spiritually and emotionally," said Allen. "His effectiveness in terms of communication and his ability to relate to a variety of personalities is going to be a huge strength for him. He'll be a very-user friendly coach for the players.
"Ryan is a very bright young coach who will continue to evolve as he gains experience as a head coach," added Allen. "Knowing the landscape at Tulsa will also help him navigate the recruiting scheme a whole lot better than somebody who hasn't had any familiarity with Tulsa."
Wills was a student assistant coach at Tulsa for the 2006-07 seasons and helped the Golden Hurricane win its first Conference USA regular-season title in 2006, followed by the program's first C-USA Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2007. Tulsa compiled an overall 54-15 record during those two seasons.
After his graduation from Tulsa in 2008, Wills was a volunteer coach at UCLA for two seasons (2008-09) under now-retired head coach and National Volleyball Hall of Famer Andy Banachowski, the all-time winningest NCAA Division I women's volleyball coach and winner of six national championships.
UCLA reached the NCAA regional semifinals in 2008 and the NCAA second round in 2009. Wills helped train three AVCA All-Americans, two Pac-10 Conference Freshmen of the Year performers and one AVCA National Freshman of the Year. The Bruins posted a 46-20 record in those two seasons and was ranked as high as sixth nationally.
"I was really pleased when I heard that Ryan received the opportunity to be the head coach at Tulsa; I think he'll do very, very well," Banachowski said. "What was most impressive about Ryan while he was with us at UCLA was his ability to work with everybody as he got along well with the players and the staff. He was always looking for things to do, as well. So, I know Ryan is an extremely hard worker and he's going to be successful because of that and his ability to relate to everybody."
"He sat in on all of our practice planning and strategy sessions. He was trying to be a sponge and learn everything he could at that time," added Banachowski.
Wills was also the Beach Program Director at the Mizuno Long Beach Volleyball Club, where he developed and directed a sand volleyball program for the club. In 2009, the program won the inaugural National Club Championship for club beach volleyball.
He trained nine girls who received Division I scholarships while coaching for the Mizuno Long Beach program and had five players earn Junior Olympic All-America honors, including Tulsa's Kellie Culbertson, who was the Junior Olympic 17 open division Most Valuable Player. This past fall, Culbertson finished her career at Tulsa among the top-three all-time leaders for kills and digs and set a school-record for service aces.
Wills, 29, also assisted with Club ONE Volleyball in Tulsa from 2006-08, where the program won three Oklahoma Regional Volleyball Association Championships and received three bids to the Junior Olympic National Championships.
Wills' wife, Evyn, was a four-year letterwinner for the Golden Hurricane volleyball team and completed her career ranked first on the school's all-time digs list as a libero.