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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 28 2011

Kolpack: Former assistant Thompson has adjusted well to head job

A masters degree in speech communications is not a requirement for the head volleyball position at North Dakota State. Nor is it necessary to be a member of a Toastmasters club or be a close friend of Dale Carnegie.

When Kari Thompson first went in front of the media when she was named the interim head coach in October, it was an intense time in Bison athletics. The head coach had just resigned under a cloud of suspicion, and a couple of days later, Thompson was in front of cameras and reporters.

She said she was nervous, saying she makes a good assistant coach but wasn’t quite ready for the bright lights. Deer encountering walking orange objects with rifles look more comfortable.

“I was putting myself out there and stepping outside my role,” she said. “It’s something I wasn’t sure of, being in front of the media, but I’m getting more comfortable.”

On Thursday, the Thompson that took the podium at the Fargodome team room was different than the Thompson that sat behind a table in a cramped room at Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse in October.

Her rate of speech was calm. Her eye contact was much better. She showed good posture and a confident presence. She could maybe use a little work on voice inflection, but that will come. (Oh, and by the way, I was a former president of a Toastmasters club).

The point in all of this: The almost four months of being an interim head coach was the ideal situation for an assistant with no prior head coaching experience. If Erich Hinterstocker had resigned after the season, a strong case could be made that Thompson would not have been named the head coach.

“We went through a lot of challenges together,” Thompson said. “That built our confidence and built it in myself.”

Moreover, the job is pretty good for a mid-major Division I school. It drew the interest of Division I head coaches, both current and former. It drew the attention of assistants from major universities.

But none of those candidates had the advantage that Thompson did: a trial run at it. The Bison won the Summit League tournament and gave the University of Minnesota a test in the NCAA first round.

“You could see it in practice,” said Bison middle hitter Chrissy Knuth. “As the weeks went by, we knew she was getting more comfortable in the head coaching position.”

On Thursday, we could see it, too.

Now, about that voice inflection …

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia