Warrior volleyball will change its Toon

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WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla Community College volleyball coach Tim Toon is rather bashful when it comes to talking about his legacy.

Toon, who resigned as head coach last week, has accrued quite the coaching resume during his 30 years as a volleyball coach. He has won a number of volleyball matches and countless awards, and he has guided numerous teams to postseason tournaments, but Toon has always been a little different from his coaching cohorts.

When asked about the most significant moments of his career, Toon referenced tennis player Jimmy Connors and his hatred of losing.

“That’s one of the reasons why it’s time to get out,” Toon said. “I expected to win and I didn’t really get to celebrate wins all that much and I was more distraught over the losses.”

Although he’s still probably stewing about some heartbreaking losses, his numbers speak for themselves — he has won more than 500 matches at WWCC, he has sent 39 players onto four-year institutions and he has been named NWAACC East Region Coach of the Year five times.

However, Toon’s impact off the court may be even more astonishing.

Toon’s players have nearly a 100 percent graduation rate and he has coached 43 merit scholars. Toon is quick to tout his talented players, saying he recruited players that were devoted on the court, as well as in the classroom.

“I kind of played both ends of the spectrum,” Toon said. “I saw them getting their associates of arts degree here and graduating as being my primary focus, but (it’s) very rewarding to send them on to four-year institutions and see them get their degrees there.”

Toon’s love for volleyball hasn’t wavered, but he’s ready to begin the next chapter of his career.

“It was my time,” Toon said. “Probably the last four or five years, I’ve at least thought about it. I wanted to wait for the right time. It’s not that I lack passion — the passion is still there.”

Toon’s interest in the game started during his freshman year of high school.

He described himself as a “frustrated basketball player” who was 6-foot-3, but could not play in the post. He said volleyball was a natural move, as his older sister had taught him to play the sport years earlier.

Toon played two years Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he was named to the All-Western Collegiate Volleyball Conference team twice. He then completed his playing career at BYU Hawaii, where he earned a degree in physical education.

Upon finishing his playing career, Toon decided to parlay his love of the game into a career — he sent out 150 letters to colleges seeking a graduate assistant position.

“The timing was good,” he said. “I was coming out of college and wanting to coach and didn’t know if I could ever make enough money to make a career out of it.”

He decided on Stephen F. Austin State University, a Division I college outside of Houston, Texas, where he received his master’s degree in physical education.

From his experience at Stephen F. Austin, Toon moved on to coach at Rice University, where he spent five years. With a combined seven years of D-I experience, Toon was primed to move up through the coaching ranks.

Instead, Toon made a decision based on his family, rather than his coaching career.

“(We) were looking for a place to raise a family,” he said. “ (We) hadn’t heard much about Walla Walla, but the more research we did, the more enticing it looked. It’s met and exceeded all of our expectations as far as raising our two boys here.”

From there, Toon spent two years at Whitman College before becoming the first full-time volleyball coach at WWCC.

He quickly realized coaching at the Community College level presented distinct challenges — such as making connections with high school and club coaches for recruiting purposes and relying on sophomores to lead the team rather than seniors and juniors.

“Really from day one, we’ve had the resources to compete,” Toon said. “Part of that was me figuring out how to coach at this level. It took me a few years to figure that out.”

Fast forward 20 years and Toon’s biggest worry is avoiding gray hair. That’s not so bad for a guy who was named NWAACC Coach of the Year three times.

Without the rigors of coaching, Toon can look forward to easy days filled with minimal responsibilities.

But we all know that’s not happening.

“I’m not going to go home and watch soap operas,” Toon said. “I certainly have a lot to do. I’m looking forward to being able to more time and energy into some of the other projects I’m working on (around) campus.”

Toon said he hopes to work as a mentor for his eventual replacement and help his current players with anything they need.

Toon’s replacement will inherit a team that finished 26-15 last season and reached the NWAACC tournament. With the help of the administration, Toon is positive any coach would be lucky to work for WWCC.

“The school is a big part of (our) success,” he said. “This is not the Tim Toon story. I’m fortunate to have fallen into a great environment. The success of our program is well beyond me.”

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