Lincoln - University of Nebraska volleyball head coach John Cook announced Thursday the hiring of Chris Tamas as an assistant coach, with his wife, Jennifer (Joines) Tamas, joining the Huskers as a volunteer assistant. Chris Tamas (pronounced Thomas) was the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Cal Poly the past two seasons, while Jen served as a volunteer assistant there.
Cook said Tamas, a former U.S. Men's National Team captain who also spent two years as an assistant at Minnesota, brings tremendous playing and coaching experience, as well as recruiting ability to the Huskers. He will primarily oversee Nebraska's middle blockers, coordinate blocking defense and scouting reports, while assisting in recruiting. Tamas replaces Dan Meske, who took the head coach position at Augustana (S.D.).
"Going through the search process, we were really impressed with the quality of candidates interested in Nebraska volleyball," Cook said. "Chris really stood out to us because of his playing experience with the U.S. National Team and that he's played under some great coaches. He has been in the Big Ten, so he's familiar with the conference and what it takes to compete at this level. He's also been at two programs in rebuilding modes in UC Riverside and Cal Poly, and that's when you really learn how to coach. I admire the fact that he helped rebuild a program basically from scratch, a program that is ready to take off after the players he brought in last year."
In Tamas' first season at Cal Poly in 2013, the Mustangs posted an eight-win improvement over 2012. Tamas' seven-player recruiting class in 2014 was ranked 23rd nationally by PrepVolleyball.com, and the Mustangs' top hitter, setter and blocker in 2014 were all freshmen, including Big West Conference All-Freshman Team member Raeann Greisen (3.55 kills per set). The Mustangs regularly started five of the seven freshmen Tamas helped bring in.
“I have been fortunate enough to travel the world through my playing and coaching career - from the collegiate to the national and professional levels - and what the University of Nebraska does for the sport of volleyball is unrivaled," Tamas said. "From the passionate and knowledgeable fans to the dedicated and hardworking staff, we couldn't be more excited to join this program. We're looking forward to working with Coach Cook, developing our student-athletes, and together achieving world-class results.”
As an assistant coach at Minnesota from 2011-12, he helped lead the Golden Gophers to an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance in 2011 and an Elite Eight showing in 2012. In addition to scouting, Tamas was tasked with training Minnesota’s setters, and the Golden Gophers finished the 2012 season with the Big Ten Conference’s top offense and ranked eighth nationally in kills per set. With Minnesota, Tamas worked under Hugh McCutcheon, who directed the United States Men’s National Team to a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics and the U.S. women’s team to a silver medal in 2012. Prior to his time with Minnesota, Tamas spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons at UC Riverside under 2008 Olympic assistant coach Ron Larsen.
Tamas' wife, Jennifer (Joines) Tamas, was a four-time All-American middle blocker at Pacific (2000-03) and silver medalist with the United States at the 2008 Summer Olympics. She played professionally for eight years in Japan, Italy, Russia, Azerbaijan and Puerto Rico and was the U.S. Women's National Team captain for four years.
"I coached Jen on two USA teams previously, and she's very good friends with Jordan Larson-Burbach and Nancy Metcalf (Meendering)," Cook said. "She's interested in coaching now that she's retired from playing professionally. Jen and Chris together are going to make a very big impact on our program."
Jen Tamas added: “I look forward to joining my husband and bringing our family into the Lincoln Community. There is no better place in the country to play volleyball and raise a family. We are honored to join such a storied program. As a former Olympian and captain of our women’s national team, I understand the unique combination of leadership skills, dedication to training, and commitment to the team that is needed at the highest level. We look forward to helping develop these traits in our young women here at Nebraska.”
Both Chris and Jen Tamas bring with them accomplished collegiate and professional playing careers.
Chris Tamas was a 2003 graduate of Pacific with a degree in sports sciences. He was a four-year starter for the Tigers and a unanimous AVCA All-America first team selection and team Most Valuable Player during his 2003 senior season, Tamas remains first in program history in assists (5,086), third in assists per set (13.46), fourth in service aces (84), 10th in digs (498) and 14th in total bocks (221). In four years with the United States Men’s National Team (1999, 2003, 2005-06), Tamas made 34 appearances and in 1999 helped the squad to a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in Havana. As national team captain in 2003, Tamas helped lead the United States to a bronze medal at the World University Games in Daegu, South Korea.
A training camp invitee for the United States squad that eventually captured the 2008 Olympic gold medal, Tamas also helped U.S. sides to silver at the 2005 World Grand Champions Cup in Japan and, as a setter, to a gold at the 2006 NORCECA Championships in Mexicali, Mexico.
As a professional, Tamas competed for six years overseas with clubs Protect Eye Orion (Netherlands), Antigos Alunos (Portugal), Real Grupo (Spain), Erdemir (Turkey), Dionysos (Cyprus) and Isku (Finland). In Finland and Cyprus, Tamas helped his clubs to national cup championships.
As a middle blocker with the United States Women’s National Team, Jen Tamas made more than 60 appearances in eight years while serving as captain for four years. Aside from assisting the U.S. to silver at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, Tamas helped lift the country to gold at the 2012 Pan-American Cup.
She was the 2003 Big West Conference Player of the Year and 2000 Big West Freshman of the Year at Pacific, where she led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament each year. Tamas earned communications and business degrees at Pacific.