MU Athletics Staff Visits With Fans on First Leg of ‘Come Home Tour’
About 50 people attended an MU Come Home Tour stop in Sedalia at Bistro No. 5 at the Lamy's Building, Pacific and Ohio, on Wednesday evening, April 12.
The free event was a chance for MU fans to meet some of the athletic staff, including MU Football Support Staff Special Teams Analyst Brock Olivo, MU Head Volleyball Coach Dawn Sullivan, Director of MU Athletics Desiree Reed-Francois, MU Men's Basketball Coach Dennis Gates and MU Men's Basketball Assistant Coach David Nutt.
Each of them delivered a speech at the event and engaged with fans before and afterward, posing for pictures, with some, such as Olivo, signing autographs.
Olivo played for MU from 1994 to 1997, and told KSIS that his new position as a special teams analyst is one that he excelled at in the NFL and college.
“I'm really, really grateful to be back at my alma mater. For me, it's a dream come true. Grateful to Coach Drinkwitz, grateful to Desiree and everybody. Prior to that, I was coaching in the NFL for several years. Prior to that, I was in college football, coaching Coastal Carolina. I got my start in coaching actually overseas, in Italy. That's where I got my start,” Olivo said.
“I'd always been in love obviously with the game of football, my father was a high school football coach for 30-plus years, and my father, my uncle, my cousin all played in the NFL, so I come from a football pedigree, so I always knew I wanted to get into coaching,” Olivo told KSIS.
“After my NFL playing days were over, I got away from football for a while, went and worked at a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Washington, DC, after which I ran for Congress in 2008 here in the state of Missouri. But all the while, in the back of my mind, I knew I eventually wanted to get back to football. Now I'm actually back at my home, which is a special moment for me, and I'm growing as a coach, and I'm also able to reflect on the time that I was there as a player, and to see the growth that the university has underwent in the football program, and Columbia as a city, it's just a lot of fun to see how it's evolved and become, really, a big player on the national scene, being a part of the SEC Conference. I mean, that's really, really cool, and I'm so happy,” Olivo said.
“Oh my gosh, I get up, and I cross the campus that helped form me as a young man in my formidable years, and I go to work at the stadium where I played my collegiate days at, where my name's on the wall, my jersey's retired. So I get to go to that stadium to go to work every day. I mean, I'm just really fortunate, and I realize that,” Olivo stated.
He admitted he does experience flashbacks to his earlier days.
“I do have flashbacks. I hear crowd noise. Is that bad?,” Olivo asked. “But joke aside, it's a privilege for me to be able to give back to the program that I so dearly love. I ride my bike to work every day.”
MU Head Volleyball Coach Sullivan grew up on a farm in Marshall, Minnesota (southwest of Minneapolis) and was one of only three girls in her class.
“So I grew up playing with boys until eighth grade, then they said I couldn't play with them anymore. And I said, 'I don't understand, why not?' and so then I petitioned to play, and it was cool,” Sullivan said.
She added that she was blessed by being “coached by some incredible people who cared who allowed me to be who I was” adding that as an eighth grader was playing with high schoolers.
“They could have pushed me away, but they completely accepted me,” Sullivan recalled of her teammates.
“From there, I was very fortunate to be recruited to Kansas State. I became and All-American there. Played professionally for a year. The I decided I wanted to get back into coaching,” Sullivan said, adding that she wanted to give back much in the same way her coaches did for her.
Sullivan then coached three years at Illinois State, 13 years at Iowa State, and the last five years she coached at UNLV.
Coach Sullivan noted that Desiree was a big reason why she chose to coach at UNLV.
I took that leap from a small town in Minnesota to Las Vegas.
So when Desiree left UNLV to work at MU, “obviously I was a little bit bummed. So when she did call me (to make the move to MU), I was like, yeah, I'm in.”
Sullivan noted that she is excited to be coaching at MU, and her volleyball season starts in August.
“We have about a week and a half left of training in the spring. We have seven on our roster now, signed and committed, and we're still recruiting,” Coach Sullivan told KSIS.
“Two of those are local, one from Columbia, one from just south of Columbia, and we're looking for three more,” she stated. “I'm really excited about the group that's coming in, I think they have a ton of talent, and I'm really excited about the family foundation, and what we're about. At the rate they're learning about the game, the relationships they're building, it's been fun to be a part of,” Sullivan said.
Developing her players as people is her main goal, and the wins and championships will come along with it, she noted.
When asked how she describes her coaching style, Sullivan said she is first and foremost a teacher. “I like to teach the game, but I also have a very strong competitive spirit,” Coach Sullivan concluded.
MU Assistant Men's Basketball Coach David (Dickie) Nutt was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, where his mother still lives. His oldest brother Houston was a football coach for the University of Arkansas. Another brother Danny worked for Houston. His other brother played in the NBA for six years.
Coach Nutt coached at Oklahoma State where he became a grad assistant. He went from there to Arkansas State as a head coach in the Sunbelt Conference for 13 years.
“I went from there to Southeast Missouri State for six years at Cape Girardeau. And in 2016, I was fired. And the very next day, Florida State called. So I really oughta write SEMO a thank-you note, right? So I go there, and they put me in an office across from a young assistant coach by the name of Dennis Gates. So I worked for Leonard Hamilton, who was the head coach, and Dennis was one of his assistants. And we had marvelous years, those three years were amazing. We went to the NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16 and Elite 8 and we had multiple players go to the NBA,” Coach Nutt recalled.
“So Coach Gates comes in one day, and says, 'Coach Nutt, I'm going to become a head coach at Cleveland State, and I need you to come with me,' and I said wait a minute coach, we live in Florida. Why? And he said, 'I'm going with or without you' and I said, 'I'll go, I'll go,” Nutt said.
Coach Nutt went with Gates to Cleveland State, and he watched as Gates became one of the hottest coaches in America.
“I saw him win back-to-back conference championships, take a team (Cleveland State) to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament that hasn't been there in years, he was coach of the year back-to-back, he should have gotten coach of the year that third year, that was his best year, and then all of a sudden, he was the hottest coach in America, he could just choose whichever school he wants. He has all these offers, and he chooses Missouri,” Coach Nutt said.