If there are Tabor College alumni with more success in the coaching profession than Dennis Janzen, it’s a short list.
His coaching resume is beyond ridiculously amazing as the head volleyball coach and athletic director at Fresno Pacific University. For those not familiar with the connection, Fresno Pacific is Tabor’s sister Mennonite Brethren school in California.
There isn’t room in this column to cover all of Janzen’s success, but here’s the CliffsNotes version:
• Six NAIA volleyball championships, including four consecutive from 2007-2010.
• Four-time national volleyball coach of the year.
• 20 appearances in the national tournament (national tournament best), 17 consecutive.
• From Dec. 4, 2008, to Oct. 29, 2010, his team won 65 straight matches, the longest streak in college volleyball at any level at the time.
• 122 straight home-match winning streak before losing a match last November.
• Team was ranked No. 1 for 43 consecutive weeks.
• Best win-loss record in college volleyball at any level for the last 10 years: 373 wins and 18 losses (95.4 percent).
• Janzen was named to the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2003, and inducted into the city of Fresno’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.
• Graduated more than 96 percent of the student-athletes in his program.
Janzen graduated from Tabor in 1975 with a degree in physical education and health. He completed his master’s degree in physical education at the University of Northern Colorado in 1980, and in 2004, a doctorate in sports psychology at the University of Southern California.
He is married to Jeanne Just, the daughter of Roy and Evelyn Just. Roy Just was the president at Tabor College. Janzen’s sister, Annette, happens to be married to Tabor’s board chair, Lyndon Vix.
Recently I asked Janzen, who happened to be one of my teammates on a three-man intramural basketball team at Tabor, about his coaching success and national championships. He said, “Each one is its own story. Each one is its own journey.”
As for being named national coach of the year multiple times, Janzen said, “They tend to give those to people who win championships. The coaching world is full of cliches. We obviously had very good players. They’re players who bought into an idea that the coaching staff presented, and then they bought into each other. But they did it at a level that is uncommon in each case.”
After graduating from Tabor, Janzen became boys’ basketball coach at Quinter High School in western Kansas, a long way from his California roots. His ultimate goal was to become a NCAA Divsion 1 men’s basketball assistant coach.
Volleyball was the last thing on his mind he graduated from Tabor. But that’s exactly where his journey led him.
“I was very fortunate to be around some of the best minds of the game,” Janzen said.
He shared an office with Tom Graham, a former Canadian Olympian who coached volleyball at Trinity Western in British Columbia, Canada, while Janzen coached basketball.
“We agreed to teach each other everything we knew about our sport. I was very fortunate,” Janzen said.
Janzen also credits Tabor, specifically longtime athletic director and coach Del Reimer, for influencing his coaching style.
“I’m probably very similar to Del. He wasn’t a yeller. I’m not a yeller.”
That doesn’t mean Janzen isn’t competitive.
“I’m actually a fairly quiet coach, although I’m intense,” he said. “Players know it. But I think I’m a pretty relational coach. I work at getting to know players as more than simply athletes. I think it’s part of getting to know an athlete as a person that helps you develop that person as an athlete.
“I’m pretty thorough. I feel like if I’m not as smart as someone, I’ll outwork them.”
Fresno Pacific President Merrill Ewert, also a Tabor alum, said, “Without question, volleyball has been Fresno Pacific’s signature sport over the past two decades.
“Dennis has done more than put together winning teams; he has built a winning program. His players expect to excel. Great athletes want to play for him because they know he will make them better while also giving them the opportunity to compete for national titles.”