Jonathan Winder returns to Pepperdine as head coach

One of the best players in Pepperdine Waves men’s volleyball history has returned to Malibu to lead the squad. 

Jonathan Winder, a national player of the year who led Pepperdine to an NCAA championship in 2005, was announced as the volleyball team’s new head coach on May 20. 

Winder said he feels an immense sense and responsibility to Pepperdine University. 

“I believe wholeheartedly in the mission to develop men for lives of purpose, service, and leadership through the pursuit of excellence on the court,” Winder said in a statement from the university. “It is an incredible opportunity to be able to serve Pepperdine by leading the men’s volleyball team, where some of the greatest moments and leaders in Pepperdine’s history have come through. I am thrilled to steward the program with my family and my faith at the forefront of everything we do.”

Winder had been head coach of the Fresno State women’s indoor volleyball team the past four seasons. He is replacing David Hunt, who resigned from the post earlier this month to become the associate head coach of the University of Texas women’s volleyball team. Hunt had been part of the Waves volleyball program since 2007 and took the coaching reigns from legendary coach Marv Dunphy nearly five years ago. 

Winder led Fresno State to an overall 56-47 record from 2018-22. 

He thanked Pepperdine President Jim Gash and Athletic Director Dr. Steve Potts for trusting him to be Pepperdine volleyball’s leader. 

“Their vision for Pepperdine and Pepperdine Athletics in the coming years is exciting and thrilling to be a part of,” Winder said. “As an alumnus, I am grateful to David Hunt for his coaching of the Pepperdine teams over the past decade. The program is in a good place thanks to his tremendous efforts. Lastly, thank you to Marv Dunphy, who has believed in me since I was a scrawny 16-year-old kid from Irvine. I cannot wait to be back in the office with him leading the men of this program and continuing to bring pride to the faithful Waves alumni.”

Dunphy coached Winder for four seasons. The Hall of Fame coach, who is the team’s head coach emeritus, called Winder one of the finest young coaches in volleyball. 

“He knows the game at the highest level, and more importantly, he has the gift to teach it at the highest level,” Dunphy said. “He is solid in every way and I’ve never worked with a better person. What you see is what you get and that’s not always the way in our business. He’s a wonderful young man.”

Potts called the return Winder and his wife Jaime-Ross Winder, also a Pepperdine graduate, to the university a great day.

“Jonathan is one of the best and most decorated student-athletes ever in our program and we are very excited to have him return to lead our team as the head coach,” Potts said. “He so completely embodies the commitment to our institution’s Christian faith, to the academic success of our student-athletes and to maintaining our championship-caliber men’s volleyball program at the highest level.”

Winder was the 2005 AVCA Newcomer of the Year after winning the starting setter position as a freshman. He led Pepperdine to a national title win over UCLA that same year. He was a second team All-American his freshman and sophomore years and was a first team All-American his last two years, also being named the 2007 AVCA National Player of the Year. He graduated from Pepperdine in 2008 and holds the Pepperdine career record for assists. He is sixth all-time in digs. 

Winder was a member of the U.S. National Team from 2007-12. He helped the team finish first at the 2007 Pan American Cup and second two years later, and sixth in the 2010 FIVB World Championships. He also played professional volleyball in France, Germany, Greece, and Romania. 

Winder returned to Pepperdine in 2013 as an academic coordinator and joined the men’s volleyball team’s coaching staff the next year. He was an assistant coach with the Washington women’s indoor team from 2015-18, as well as the head coach of the school’s women’s beach volleyball team. He become Fresno State’s coach in 2018. 

Pepperdine finished the 2022 season with a 19-10 record. The team won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament and was one of seven teams from across the nation to quality for the NCAA Tournament, where they were defeated by UCLA in the first round. 

Days before Winder was hired, Hunt, in an interview, said he left Pepperdine men’s volleyball in a good position. 

“We advanced it; we kept it going; we built upon it; we made it our own,” he said. “When I say ‘we,’ I mean players, the coaches that were there. Hopefully they chose someone that will be able to keep that going.” 

Hunt’s wife, three-time Olympic medalist Jordan Larson, the captain of the 2020 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning team, also joined the staff of Longhorns women’s volleyball head coach Jerritt Elliott as a volunteer assistant coach. Hunt left Pepperdine because he was told that Larson, whom he married within the last year, could not volunteer for the Waves’ program because of nepotism rules. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to coach with her at Texas. 

Hunt initially joined the Pepperdine’s men’s volleyball staff as a video coordinator and volunteer assistant. He became a full-time assistant coach in 2010 and succeeded Dunphy as coach in the summer of 2017. Hunt coached the Waves to five straight winning seasons. He will remember his time at Pepperdine in two stints — one as being Dunphy’s assistant and the other as being head coach.

“The growth and learning that took place and then the pressure to continue what Marv had done,” Hunt said. “It’s difficult to try and follow up a legend. I feel a sense of pride in what we were able to accomplish as a group. I look back fondly.” 

Hunt said he grew as a coach during his time at Pepperdine.

“Just like you ask your athletes to grow and mature and get better,” he said. “You as a coach are growing and getting better. It’s a dual process — not just for the athletes. Hopefully, I was good at that and I continue that as an assistant coach. I want to be good for Texas.” 

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