New UNO volleyball coach Matt Buttermore had a good thing going at Hastings College.
His Broncos were an annual contender for the Great Plains Athletic Conference championship, winning the league three times in his seven seasons at the helm. They were also a player at the national level, advancing to the NAIA tournament on five occasions and claiming HC's first NAIA volleyball title in 2016.
Leaving that success behind and walking away from what Buttermore called "a great community" in Hastings, even for an NCAA Division I opportunity with the Mavericks, weighed on him heavily last week.
"It was brutal. It was a hard choice. I think I lost five pounds last week just losing sleep over it," Buttermore said. "But just over the long term, we just felt this was the best opportunity for our family. And that, beyond the excitement of trying something a little bit bigger, was the most important thing."
Buttermore was officially introduced Monday as the successor to longtime UNO coach Rose Shires, who retired last month after leading the Mavs for 29 seasons. She guided UNO through its years as a Division II volleyball power and then its transition to the Division I level during her final years in Omaha.
Shires left Buttermore with a young roster that includes the top four hitters from a team that finished third in the Summit League last season and won 17 matches. Buttermore expressed excitement about getting to know the UNO players while also learning about the level of competition he'll face this spring.
"It's hard because I haven't seen Summit League teams play in person," he said. "We're going to get a taste of them (next) weekend (in a spring tournament) so I'll have a much better feel. I know they had a lot of success, but I know we lost some folks from last year's team, too. There's a bit of transition there with the roster as well."
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The Mavs, this spring, are loaded at middle blocker, short on numbers with their outside hitters and needing to replace an all-conference setter. Buttermore transitioned from a one-setter offense to a two-setter system during his final few seasons in Hastings, but said he'll evaluate what will be best at UNO.
"We've got talent in the program," he said. "Obviously, Rose is a good coach. It's not that we've got to come in and totally rework everything. I'll have to put my identity and stamp (on it) and work with the team on what that's going to look like. But we're not walking into a situation where it's some horrible sports movie. I'm real happy with where we're starting and appreciative of the work that's been done."
Buttermore expects to have his coaching staff in place soon, perhaps by the end of the week. UNO's current assistant coaches had been running the spring season to date. He's taking the reins from here.
"I thought the best idea was just get after it," he said. "There's not much left in the spring anyway."
Buttermore is a Lincoln native and played collegiately at Findlay in Ohio. He's married to the former Laura Pilakowski, who was an All-American at Nebraska. The Buttermores have two young daughters.
UNO's new coach got his start as an assistant at Bellevue and Concordia before taking over in Hastings. His hire drew praise from Nebraska coach John Cook and Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. Cook said Buttermore is prepared for the job while Bernthal Booth stated that the Mavs are in good hands.
"Matt is a winner and embodies all of the qualities that we were looking for in our next head coach," UNO A.D. Trev Alberts said. "Most importantly, Matt is someone who is deeply committed to seeing student-athletes achieve their full potential on and off the court, which makes him a perfect fit."
Buttermore said UNO's support of its student-athletes was a major selling point of his new position. He was also impressed by the transition the university has gone through and his initial visit to Baxter Arena.
"The growth of UNO, I had no idea that all that was done," he said. "Going to a place that is definitely growing — and be a part of, hopefully, making that even a little bit better in our corner of it — is exciting."
Buttermore admitted that there is a lot for him to do initially, but nothing that isn't manageable.
"I'm not too concerned now with anything," he said. "(UNO has) got a great group. There's a lot of good. We're not walking into a situation where everybody hates each other. ... The biggest thing is preparing the team to compete at a high level. If we do that really well, a lot of this other stuff will fall into place."