AMES, Iowa -- As she approached Hilton Coliseum, Florida volleyball coach Mary Wise was asked if she coached there.
She only wished.
"We played in PEB 184," said Wise, the former Iowa State coach, "which I'm sure none of you would even know where that is."
Most students can tell you where it is, but it's now called the Forker Building. Wise coached at ISU so long ago that the names of campus buildings are different.
But what she wants to do here remains the same. Instead of getting a Cyclone win back in the 1980s, she's now trying to get one for the Gators against Illinois in an Ames regional third round match on Friday.
"In some ways surreal," said Wise of her time at ISU. "It was such a long time ago that I was here and there are so many changes."
She was the youngest coach in college, a wide-eyed 21-year old who just wrapped up her career at Purdue when she was hired at ISU.
She admits she was so naive she expected to get the gig. Her lack of experience didn't hold her back from 1981-84. She went 81-63 overall and was 21-9 in her final year at ISU.
"I am forever indebted to the Iowa State administration for opening the door to allow me to live this dream," Wise said.
|COACHES' FORMER LIFE|
|* Youngest coach in NCAA history (21 yrs. old)|
Wise was a Kentucky assistant coach from 1986-90. She moved to Florida in 1991, where she has turned the Gators into a national power. She's led Florida to seven semifinals and the 2003 national championship match. She's won 713 career matches and was twice named the national coach of the year.
"She is really good at pushing you to be the best that you can be as well," Florida setter Mackenzie Dagostino said. "Sometimes I feel like coaches push players to a point where they are playing good, but Mary does a really good job of pushing us to a point where we are excellent. I don't think a lot of coaches have that ability."
Wise will need to get everything she can from her team against Illinois, which has won eight of its past nine and owns five wins against top-25 teams.
"They are a very physical team," Wise said. "They have players that can terminate. They are a very good blocking team ... at this point it really does come down to the serve-pass battle. If we can serve-pass with them, I think we can at least compete with them."
She'd like to do more than that. Wise would like to pick up two victories and notch another semifinal berth in a town that means something special to her.
"Many changes in the community," Wise said, "but one thing that hasn't changed is the people of Ames, Iowa, and Iowa may be the nicest people in the country."