Multiple coaches at Webster have stayed at the university for over a decade. Greenville volleyball coach Tom Ackerman said it is more challenging to prepare for games against veteran coaches.
The average coach in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) has coached for a little more than six seasons. But Webster coaches in the SLIAC have been coaching for an average of 11-and-a-half seasons.
Luigi Scire is Webster’s most veteran coach. He started his tenure in 1999 when Webster began the women’s soccer program. Scire has never had a losing record and has a conference record of 184-15-3.
Merry Graf has coached volleyball at Webster for 19 seasons. Andrew Belsky and Chris Bunch have coached golf and men’s basketball, respectively, for 18 seasons. Bill Kurich has been the baseball coach for 14 seasons, and Jordan Olufson has coached women’s basketball for 12.
The only SLIAC coaching staff with more years under its belt than Webster is Greenville University. The average Greenville coach has been there for over 14 seasons. This is heavily weighted to the four coaches who have been at Greenville for over 20 seasons.
Tom Ackerman has coached volleyball at Greenville for 18 seasons. He has had to compete against Webster’s Merry Graf his entire tenure.
Greenville has the second most volleyball conference championships behind Webster. Ackerman describes himself as an “extremely offensive-minded” coach, contrasting with Webster’s defensive-minded teams under Graf.
“The different coaching philosophies make the matchup with Greenville and Webster is always a fun one to watch,” Ackerman said.
Webster is 41-28 all-time against Greenville in volleyball, however, Greenville has won the last three, and seven of the last 10.
Greenville and Webster coaches have longevity that other SLIAC schools have not come close to replicating. After Greenville, 14.3 seasons and Webster, 11.5 seasons, the next SLIAC schools have less than half of the average tenure length of their coaches. Iowa Wesleyan University, Spalding University and Fontbonne University coaches have been at their respective schools for an average of five-and-a-half seasons.
Webster and Greenville have the first and third most SLIAC championships, respectively.
Ackerman finds it much more difficult to prepare and coach against veteran coaches than the newer coaches.
“Give me the first-year coach any day. The Webster volleyball program has more wins, more conference championships and more NCAA tournament appearances than any other program and most of those are under [Graf’s] watch,” Ackerman said.
Iowa Wesleyan University’s men’s basketball coach Alex Husiman agrees. He has been at Iowa Wesleyan for six seasons and has competed against Webster’s Bunch for the entirety of that tenure.
“Scouting and preparation might be easier since you have a good idea what to expect, but that doesn’t make them easier to play,” Husiman said. “There are a lot of consistencies year to year, but with any great coach, he does a really good job adapting it to his current team.”
Webster is the winningest program in the SLIAC with 89 conference championships. Sixty-three of those are from current coaches. Webster was the only SLIAC school not to have a new coaching hire for the 2020-2021 school year. If history is any indication, it may be a while until Webster does.