Wade Benson is returning for his second stint as Eastern Washington University volleyball coach.
Benson guided EWU to six consecutive 20-win seasons, three Big Sky regular-season titles and a second-round appearance in the 2001 NCAA tournament.
He’ll replace interim coach Lisa Westlake, who stepped in when head coach Myles Kidd resigned four matches into the 2012 season.
“It’s a beautiful part of the country, and we live down in Florida on the beach,” Benson said. “I’m sitting on my deck and it’s 70 degrees and I’m looking at beautiful water and we’ll certainly miss that, but it’s a chance to get back to a place I’m familiar with and I know my bosses and I know the area.
“From a volleyball perspective I think I can help Eastern take a step forward. As far as the location, I have a 10-year-old and 8-year-old and I know they’re excited to get back.”
Benson left EWU for Auburn, serving one season as an assistant and three as head coach. His first team finished 6-25 but his third team won 21 matches and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
Benson resigned and spent the last two years living in Florida, where he had a couple of business enterprises and also started a club volleyball program. His wife, Jill, an All-American at Sacramento State, coached Niceville (Fla.) High’s volleyball team.
Asked why he resigned, Benson said: “Really it was an agree-to-disagree. I was going one direction and maybe they (Auburn’s administration) weren’t ready to go that direction. It was time for me to try some different ventures.”
Benson was 154-55, including 78-24 in conference, at EWU from 2000-06. His 73.7 winning percentage is the best in program history. Benson’s career mark, including stops at Western Oregon and Auburn, is 239-115.
“He has been a tremendously successful head coach at every school,” Eagles athletic director Bill Chaves said. “What he was able to previously accomplish in the Big Sky speaks for itself. We look forward to our program again being very competitive year in and year out under his leadership.”
The injury-riddled Eagles dropped their first 22 matches before winning five of their last nine.