- Sep 9, 2015
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Washington’s Keegan Cook fell hard for mathematics and volleyball, and his love for analytics in the sport helped him become the head coach of one of the nation’s premier college programs.
A Seattle Times profile from when Cook took the UW job in 2015. From math whiz to headcoach. Here's the last half of the article
Cook’s statistical bent comes naturally. He attended St. Mary’s as a math major, with the intention of teaching it in high school and coaching volleyball.
He had become enamored with the sport while following the career of his sister, Meg, and was a strong amateur player himself, until his size precluded playing at the highest level. The love of volleyball remained constant, but about three years into college, Cook’s affection for math waned.
He recalls one of his teachers telling him, “Keegan, you don’t love math, you love arithmetic,’’ he said.
Translation: Cook loved the tangible side of math, especially sports analytics, which was just starting with volleyball around that time.
Cook began dabbling with coaching at his sister’s volleyball club and caught the attention of St. Mary’s coach Rob Browning, who put him to work in his program as a sophomore. Cook coached under Browning for eight seasons, honing his use of metrics, a skill he took with him to Washington.
“I like to see what people don’t see, and find value in what people don’t really have a lot of value in,’’ Cook said.
An example, he said, are nonscoring plays that don’t necessarily have a statistic attached to them, and can appear insignificant to fans and even some coaches, but can be quantified.
“When you add up all those little touches that seem meaningless, you can make a big impact on your team,’’ he said.
As with baseball analytics, however, more coaches are catching on. The advantage of being on the cutting edge is narrowing.
“The margin of error to be great seems like it’s shrinking, because people are starting to know what some of the right choices are,’’ he said.
The Huskies believe they made the right choice in Cook, who sometimes can’t quite believe how quickly he ascended to one of the most prestigious positions in college volleyball.
“Probably two weeks before training camp, I had this huge feeling of gratefulness,’’ he said. “That’s a pretty good feeling.”
The big office is his now, and the future of UW volleyball looks as bright as ever.