After more than two decades at the helm of Idaho Vandal volleyball, Debbie Buchanan decided it was time for a change.
The St. Maries native announced her retirement following the 2021 volleyball season and will do so with the highest number of wins in program history, 320, along with 16 conference-tournament appearances and a pair of NCAA tournament appearances.
Buchanan said she contemplated the decision for some time, and looks forward to watching her sons in their athletics. Buchanan and husband, Buck, have two sons, Austin and Blake.
Austin is a redshirt freshman on the Hawaii men’s volleyball team, and Blake is a junior at Lake City High School, where he plays basketball for the Timberwolves varsity boys basketball team.
“I figured this was the perfect time to step away,” Buchanan said. “As a coach, you have to make a lot of sacrifices. You miss birthdays, anniversaries, not to mention the boys’ games. And I wanted to be around for those.”
Buchanan took over as head coach of the Idaho volleyball team following her run of four consecutive A-2 state championships as a player for the Lumberjacks. She earned a scholarship to play volleyball at USC, but her playing days were cut short due to a knee injury.
Buchanan stayed at USC as a student-assistant coach while earning her degree, afterward serving as an assistant coach at Colorado State University and the University of Idaho before taking over at Idaho in 2000, where she would become the longest-tenured coach in program history.
In her time with the Vandals, Buchanan has coached 49 all-conference players.
“I think the thing that impacts you the most are the athletes,” she said. “You get to be part of a really special time in their life. You mentor them, and have a real impact on their futures.”
Buchanan does not plan to retire entirely following her departure from the University, and said she plans to launch a recruiting service for high school athletes looking to be involved in college athletics.
“I can work on my own schedule, and do it from home,” she said. “A lot of kids want to play at the next level, but they don’t know how to go about it, how to sell themselves, or talk to coaches. You have to fight for the things that you want, and I really hope to help them learn to do that.”
Buchanan also said she plans to continue hosting many of the camps and lessons she put on during her time with the Vandals.
Idaho has not hired a new volleyball coach, but is conducting its search on a national level. The Vandals play in the Big Sky Conference, won this season by Weber State, of Ogden, Utah.