By James Hemker
Denise Corlett, associate head coach of Stanford women’s volleyball, will retire after 31 years with the program.
Corlett is the only person to be a part of each of the school’s nine national titles, the most recent coming in December. A two-time AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year, Corlett was the constant undercurrent which pushed Stanford to a 875-146 (.857) record during her tenure.
The University will begin a national search for her replacement.
“I am proud of what we have built and the continued success the program has achieved,” she said in a statement. “It is a testament to the young women who have come through the program and the legacies they have left behind. It has truly been my pleasure to coach them.”
As a college coach, Corlett had to balance pushing the team to its championship caliber and making sure each of the women on the team succeeded off the court academically.
Corlett served as the academic point person on the staff for players to reach out to for advice as they progressed through their majors. A major factor in Stanford’s recruiting success, Corlett was one of the first people new athletes got to know as they started their years-long journey with the program.
Since her arrival at the Farm, Corlett served with three different head coaches. She melded with all of them, winning at least two national championships with each.
Under current head coach Kevin Hambly, Corlett’s strategic duties included watching opponents’ rotations and transitional offense. For each possible situation, she would chart how the opposition would attack given a specific combination of players.
At practices, she worked heavily with the passers. Every successful point in volleyball starts with a good pass, and the techniques she taught were a significant contributing factor to the team’s continued success.
During games, a constant stream of players sat by Corlett, who continuously tracked the tendencies of the opposing teams. Before a player rotated back into the match, she talked with Corlett to understand how best to defend at that moment.
Corlett also pushed Hambly each year to schedule as tough a preseason as possible, a major element in the Cardinal’s postseason success. In the three most recent title-winning seasons, Stanford defeated a team in the Final Four that it had played in the preseason.
“I want to thank Denise for her tireless dedication to the program,” Hambly said. “Her knowledge and experience with the team and university have been invaluable during my three seasons on The Farm.”
Corlett incubated the school’s beach volleyball program as well, serving as a part of the inaugural staff. She was an assistant coach from 2013-15 before ascending to head coach in 2016 for a season.
Outside of Stanford, Corlett coached at the national level. She was a member of multiple University World Games coaching staffs, as well as the staff of the 2003 Pan American games. In the 1980’s Corlett served as the U.S. Women’s National Team’s business manager. More recently, she was the head of delegation for the U.S. Junior National Team from 2007-13.
Even before coaching, Corlett was no stranger to collegiate athletics. At UCLA, Corlett was a varsity athlete in volleyball, basketball and badminton, and she was named the All-University Athlete of the Year in 1979. Her volleyball jersey No. 44 is retired, and she earned the Broderick award in 1977, naming her the nation’s top badminton player. In 1999, she was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.