Ferguson Celebrates 100 Wins

USC mens volleyball head coach Bill Ferguson collected his 100th career win Friday night as the No. 3-ranked Trojans swept the No. 14 UCSB Gauchos on the road.

Six years ago Bill Ferguson was given the keys to an old Mercedes that desperately needed to go to a body shop.

Before his arrival at USC, the men's volleyball team -- once considered a palace in the sport as the home to former Olympians, All-Americans and NCAA championships -- pieced together just 36 wins from 2001-2006.

On Friday night, Ferguson celebrated his 100th win as the Trojans swept UCSB. The head coach recalls a night a few years ago when he knew he the program was on a positive track.

The memory was, of all things, a loss. To the school's rival.

On Apr. 11, 2009 the Trojans travelled to Westwood to play UCLA. Ferguson had changed his team's starting rotation a couple games prior, switching his outside and opposite hitters. It's a bold move to make more than halfway through the season, and the five-set match against the Bruins became their third straight loss that year.

"When you're a coach at 'SC and you lose to UCLA, you don't ever want to feel good about it. But that's when I knew we were for real," he remembered. "That moment, losing at Pauley [Pavilion], that's when it was on. From that point."

Many of Ferguson's players call him "Fergie." It's a fitting name for a coach who is as unassuming and self-deprecating as they come.

Despite making it to the NCAA Final Four twice in the last four years (including a finals appearance that 2009 season), Ferguson credits the program's revival to the work of his staff and players.

"The 100 [wins] is great and I'm fortunate and I've had unbelievable coaches work with me and an unbelievable group of student-athletes over the time I've been here," he said. "Without them, it's nothing."

As with any coach who has winning on the mind, Ferguson adds:

"But for us, it's about that two-game winning streak in May."

Currently boasting a 100-62 record, Ferguson has only lost eight games since the beginning of 2010. While the Trojans lost star players Murphy Troy and Riley McKibbin, who are now playing professionally overseas, the Trojans' head coach somehow replaced them and managed to continue the program's winning ways.

"I think it's wild to look at him as a coach and what he's done with this program. I know when he first got here it was not a winning program and the recruiting classes that he brought in, he's really just turned this program around," co-captain Steve Shandrick said.

Shandrick, who is hitting at a .474 clip through 19 games, believes Ferguson has been so successful because he's not a coach who beats you when you're down or hypes you up more than necessary.

"He feels the vibe of the guys in the gym and knows when to turn it on and when to let loose a little bit," Shandrick said. "He's always cracking jokes, but he can crack the whip and be strict when it counts."

As Ferguson builds his legacy with each new win, he exudes a tremendous amount of gratitude for having what he calls the "perfect job." He said he is reminded of it every day in various ways.

"It can go from interacting with student athletes every day -- these guys that we are in the gym with every day are so sharp both mentally and physically -- to going to the monthly coaches' meetings and sitting in a room with Peter Smith and Jovan [Vavic] and Mick [Haley] and [Michael Cooper] and all these multiple-time champions and Pat Haden. To be part of the same group every day, that's pretty cool."

Ferguson's gratitude runs deep, as he even discussed a profound respect for UCLA head coach Al Skates, who will retire this season after 50 years of coaching the Bruins to 19 national championships. Ferguson loved beating Skates in his first year as a head coach, but he loved learning from him, too. He's even married to a former UCLA volleyball player, Brenn Larson.

But don't worry about where his alliance lies: his blood is Trojan cardinal. As the son of two USC alumni, Ferguson said he doesn't feel like it's only his sixth year at the university.

"No it feels like I've been here 100," Ferguson joked. "Growing up, my folks knew the football coaching staff in the 70s. I have mentally and emotionally been connected to the school in some capacity."

And now the connection is physical, as he helps these Trojans continue their winning ways and pack the history books while enjoying the moments along the way.

"This is one of the coolest jobs. I think we give Disneyland a run for their money in the happiest place on Earth," he said. "Sometimes it's a player cracking a joke in the video room. Or I remember one game this year standing up, holding my daughter during the national anthem.

"Stuff like that. There's so many different positives every day in so many different ways."

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