The more Andrew Palileo learned about North Texas over the last few weeks, the more convinced he became that the school would be the ideal place to resume his head coaching career.
Palileo rose through the ranks of college volleyball coaches, jumping from Division III Bethel University to South Dakota State to Washington State, where he was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2009.
UNT announced that it had hired Palileo as its head coach Wednesday, when he met with his latest team — the fourth he will guide as a head coach.
Palileo spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Ohio State after resigning from WSU after the 2010 season. He replaces Ken Murczek, who resigned after three seasons at UNT to take over at Wake Forest.
Murczek led UNT to a 26-12 finish and an appearance in the Sun Belt Conference tournament final in his last season at the school, which also was the Mean Green’s last in the league before moving to Conference USA.
“It’s a great program that has been built up the last couple of years,” Palileo said. “I am excited to come in here, build off what he [Murczek] has done and take the program to the next step. He has built a pretty good culture here. Now as we make the move to Conference USA, we will make the necessary adjustments.”
Palileo hasn’t had much of a chance to see what those adjustments might be after spending only a few hours with his players.
What he does know is that despite switching to what is generally considered a higher-level league, UNT will enter the 2013 season with high expectations.
UNT had just one senior on its roster last year and was within one match of reaching the NCAA tournament before being swept by Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt tourney final.
“We have the same exact team except for one person,” senior middle blocker Courtney Windham said. “It doesn’t change our mentality and our goals just because we have a new coach. If anything, he is going to have higher goals and expectations.”
UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said that the school had an impressive pool of candidates for the job.
“Andrew rose to the top of that list with his success as a coach and his personal approach to teaching young people,” Villarreal said in a statement. “I know that he is the perfect person to build on the success the Mean Green volleyball program has begun to achieve.”
Palileo has a 273-195 record as a head coach, including a 34-54 record at WSU. He led the Cougars to an 18-13 record and a 6-12 mark in conference play in 2009 before resigning a year later.
Palileo finished with a 154-86 record at South Dakota State and was named the Summit League Coach of the Year in 2007, when he led the Jackrabbits to the conference title and their first berth in the NCAA tournament.
Palileo said he is familiar with C-USA and believes UNT will be able to compete immediately in the league.
“There are expectations for a team like this with everyone coming back, but they are good expectations,” Palileo said. “As a coach at this level, no matter where a team is at, you strive to take it to the next level.”
UNT’s players had to wait a few weeks to find out whom their new coach would be after Murczek’s departure and were excited about beginning the process of adjusting to Palileo and his system, especially with an offseason tournament approaching this weekend.
“It’s time now to get a head coach,” UNT outside hitter Carnae Dillard said. “We were all excited to get in here and meet him today.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.