UB volleyball head coach Reed Sunahara resigns to take job at West Virginia

Sunahara compiled 17-15 record in first and only season in Buffalo

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Reed Sunahara resigned as the volleyball team’s head coach to assume the same position at West Virginia University on Monday after only one season in Buffalo.

He compiled a 17-15 record and tied a single-season program record with six Mid-American Conference wins in his first and only season with the Bulls. His switch to West Virginia comes with a nearly $30,000 boost in salary, which will increase throughout his five-year contract. 

“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Sunahara said. “It’s going to benefit my family and I - I love Buffalo - I wasn’t looking, but West Virginia was looking for me. One thing led to another and they offered me the job.”

Athletic Director Danny White released a statement regarding Sunahara’s departure.

“I want to wish Reed the best as he moves into the Big 12,” White said in a press release. “While it is a challenge for us to replace someone of his caliber, this is a testament to the type of coaches we are bringing in. The volleyball program is in a much better position because of Reed’s hard work and I am extremely confident that we will attract a high level coach soon who will help us continue to build our program to be one of the best in the Mid-American Conference.”

White has hired 10 head coaches since coming to Buffalo in 2012. Sunahara is the first head coach to leave Buffalo for another job since White’s arrival. White said he and the UB Athletics staff have begun a nation-wide search for a new coach effective immediately.

Sunahara said he first started considering the move after West Virginia contacted him about a week and a half ago.

“At this point in time, it would be a better opportunity for my family and I,” Sunahara said. “What West Virginia offered, I couldn’t pass up.”

Sunahara’s contract with the Mountaineers is for five years and will begin with a starting salary of $120,000, according to The Dominion Post. He is expected to make between $123,600 to $135,060 annually in the final four years of the contract.

This past year, Sunahara made $92,050 as the Bulls head coach – nearly $13,000 more than former head coach Todd Kress, who averaged $79,160 each year for the five years he was the coach.

Sunahara informed the team around noon  Monday that he will not be returning for the 2015 season.

“I told them this is a great opportunity,” Sunahara said. “I loved coaching them. I love Buffalo. Danny White has done a great job. [Senior Associate Athletic Director] Kathy Twist, [Deputy Director of Athletics] Allen Greene and all the support staff – I love working with them.”

The team was “shocked,” according to junior outside hitter Megan Lipski. According to Lipski, no one on the team was expecting Sunahara to resign and thinks it “will take a few days to process.”

Nonetheless, Lipski said she was thankful for the time she and the rest of the team spent with Sunahara.

“Reed had a higher level of intensity than the other coaches did,” Lipski said. “He was very experienced, very accomplished. He knew what he was doing. He was doing great things. Even spectators noticed how much better the team looked and they were excited what the team was going to do. We had this vision of our future under him, and that’s why it was surprising.”

Sunahara also resigned at his last head-coaching job at the University of Cincinnati after 12 seasons. Sunahara told The Spectrum in 2014 that he felt it was time to leave the Bearcats and that he had “other opportunities.”

Sunahara accumulated a 289-109 record, reached the Division-I NCAA Tournament eight times and won three Big East championships and three Conference USA championships from 2000-2011 with Cincinnati. He won the Big East Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2011, as well as Conference USA Coach of the year in 2001.

Sunahara was a standout player at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he helped the Bruins win three national championships as a player from 1982-84, and again as an assistant coach in 1993. He missed his entire senior season in 1985 after a motorcycle injury, but returned to the Bruins for the 1986 season.

Sunahara plans to locate down to West Virginia in the next couple of weeks. For now, he said he is enjoying his last times in Buffalo and with the team.

“I’m going to miss the team,” Sunahara said. “I liked coaching these girls. I thought we had a good team going. Overall, I’m going to miss Buffalo. It’s a wonderful city. I wish Buffalo the best.”

Jordan Grossman is the senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com