Coach has instant impact on the court

BY ALEX PROSPERI
Daily Sports Writer
Published October 3, 2007

Even an onlooker has no problem recognizing Michigan volleyball coach Mark Rosen and his wife, assistant coach Leisa Rosen, during matches: Both are always standing and shouting instructions to the team.

But pan your eyes down the bench and you will see another coach, one who is just as energetic and intense as the Rosen couple but who tends to stay in his seat a little more. That's assistant coach Gregg Whitis.

Whitis may not be the most noticeable Wolverine staff member, but his importance is immeasurable.

A 1991 graduate of Olivet Nazarene University, Whitis is the recruiting coordinator for the 16th-ranked Wolverines (1-3 Big Ten, 13-3 overall). He has already brought in an impressive freshman class for next season and has quickly made a profound impression during his short time at Michigan.

"I think that Gregg is one of best recruiters in the country," Leisa Rosen said.

Before Whitis arrived in Ann Arbor, Leisa did the majority of the team's recruiting. In 2004, she brought in current seniors Katie Bruzdzinski, Stesha Selsky, Sarah Draves and Lyndsay Miller, one of the best freshman classes in the country. She also got an early commitment from current freshman Lexi Zimmerman, who was ranked the No. 1 prep setter in the nation by prepvolleyball.com.

But with Leisa on the recruiting trail, she couldn't contribute her on-the-court knowledge as much as she wanted.

The addition of Whitis has allowed Leisa to become more of an on-the-court-coach - a role that helps her concentrate her energies toward the team and predominately the middle blockers.

Whitis has been around volleyball for most of his life. He played three seasons in college, and before joining the Wolverine staff, Whitis coached volleyball and taught English at St. Anthony High School in Effingham, Ill. Later, he served as an assistant coach for Clemson, Southern Methodist University and Northern Michigan.

But the personable Whitis has always been a Midwest guy, making Michigan a perfect fit.

"I was saturated by the Big Ten," Whitis said. "As a volleyball coach, you always have a desire to work at the highest level possible. The Big Ten is one of the better volleyball conferences in the country."

Whitis isn't wrong. Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Penn State are all ranked in the top-16 in the CSTV/AVCA Division I Top 25 Coaches Poll.

Whitis's competitive nature and loyalty to the team is easy to see. He's never hesitant to respond to a questionable call, and he continuously gives his two cents to the referees, always ready to back up his players.

For this Michigan squad, the feelings are mutual. The team knows Whitis is committed to excellence at Michigan.

"As a coach, you'd like to try and see if your talent can measure up against the best competition," Whitis said. "From that standpoint, it's tremendously rewarding to be able to compete against some of the best programs in the country. What we're doing now is building this program into that type of category."