Letourneau to resign, cites long commute to Boston

 

Some days it was by train, some by car, and some by both.

For Craig Letourneau, the one-and-a-half, sometimes two-hour commute to Boston from his home in Connecticut began to take its toll. The Emerson volleyball coach said he wanted to move his wife, Julie, and two young children, Cameron and Aubrie, closer to Beantown, but that the local housing market just wasn’t right.

As a result, Letourneau said he is resigning as head coach of both the men’s and women’s volleyball programs effective July 1, after spending three years at Emerson.

“This has been a great opportunity, and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to put together,” Letourneau said. “But I’ve got a family and I need to spend more time with them.”

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The 35-year old said he will take the reins of a struggling Wheaton College women’s volleyball team beginning Aug.15 and try to turn it around, much like he did in his time at Emerson.

Wheaton is in Norton, Mass., which is closer to the Connecticut border, and Letourneau said, will cut his commute roughly in half.

Athletic director Kristin Parnell said she is happy Letourneau can work closer to his family and praised him as a coach.

“He’s taken a program [at Emerson] from what it was and made it elite,” Parnell said. “He’s created a volleyball culture here and he definitely leaves them in a nice position.”

Parnell said she is already forming a search committee for a new volleyball coach, which will include Steve Selnick and Katie Bailey, the captains of both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams.

In his time at Emerson, Letourneau amassed a 72-30 overall record, according to NCAA records, the best mark of his collegiate coaching career.

NCAA records also show that the women’s volleyball program struggled before Letourneau took over, inching past the .500 mark just a few times between the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s.

In 2008-09, Letourneau’s first year at the helm, the Lions saw immediate improvement, posting a record of 21-11. One year later, Emerson won the GNAC championship and made the NCAA tournament with a record of 30-7, a mark that still stands as the best in school history.

“I feel like I’ve done what I was asked to do,” Letourneau said. “To rejuvenate the women’s program and start the men’s program, and I think I’ve done that.”

Junior Jeff Ackerstein was a member of the inaugural men’s volleyball team in Letourneau’s first year, a memory he said he’ll take with him beyond Emerson.

“You know, it’s cool to be a part of that, of the start,” Ackerstein said. “And it’s fun to watch the improvement. We had four wins our first year, then nine last year, and we’ve already got nine this year so we’ll probably finish with more.”

Ackerstein said he was shocked when he heard the news his coach was leaving.

“I feel like it all began with Craig and at first it didn’t really make sense to me because, well, Craig is the program,” said Ackerstein, a film major. “He is this program. He’s the one who started it.”

Bailey, a junior media studies major and captain of the women’s volleyball team, said she understood the decision.

“I was sad but coach has always let us know that his family comes first and that if he could take a job closer to his family he would do that,” Bailey said. “But it’s too bad we’re losing him. He did a lot of great things for this program.”

Captain Steve Selnick said he too understands Letourneau’s decision, but that he will miss his coach both on and off the court.

“He was a constant for three years,” said Selnick, a junior broadcast journalism major. “He was always there for us. I think from here on out for the rest of the season it’s just trying to establish what he taught us.”

The men’s volleyball team lost to Mount Ida Tuesday night, 3-2, erasing any chance it had at making the playoffs.

But Ackerstein said he’s going to stay upbeat and continue to have fun, even though not having Letourneau roaming the sidelines will take some getting used to.

“He’s like that awkward substitute teacher you always hope to have in high school who will just teach you about anything and will talk to you about anything from politics to life,” Ackerstein said. “We’ll miss him.”