When volleyball coaching icon Milan Mader hung up his whistle after finally guiding Lakeville North to a Class 3A state championship in 2010, Walt Weaver was asked about taking over.
Weaver, an icon himself who retired in 2006 after more than 30 years at Apple Valley, said no thanks.
He soon realized he wouldn't stay away for long.
"This wasn't something I wanted to be retired from," Weaver said. "It became clear staying away wasn't going to be easy."
He initially said "no" again to North after Steve Willingham shifted to Lakeville South for this season. Then he reconsidered.
Last week, Weaver returned.
"To be honest, it's not a whole lot different," said Weaver, who missed the first four days of practice due to a prior engagement. "I have a love and passion for the sport. It's not work for me, and I felt the same way in the classroom. Promoting and pushing volleyball forward, that's what I want to be doing."
He takes over a team that many have pegged as a state tournament favorite.
Lakeville North came one point away from winning back-to-back titles last season but fell just short to Eden Prairie. Five regular players return from that team, including two-time all-state outside hitter Alyssa Goehner.
As a bonus, setter Erica Handley moved to Lakeville for her senior year after helping Win-E-Mac to back-to-back Class 1A tournament berths.
"This is one of the premier programs in the state," Weaver said. "This program right now is running as an entity. I'm one little piece. I'm not here to teach them how to pass or how to spike. It's to try and make sure the varsity players become a unit."
Weaver, who lives in Lakeville, coached Apple Valley to two state championships and finished with 656 victories with the Eagles.
He has set no timetable for his stay with the Panthers but doesn't plan another lengthy stop.
"I'm not a program builder anymore," he said. "But it feels good to be back."
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