Longtime women’s volleyball head coach Cody Hein passed away Friday, January 24. He was 47.
Born February 11, 1972, Hein grew up in California’s Central Valley and was diagnosed shortly after birth with a serious heart condition that required three major surgeries—including replacing a portion of his heart with a prothesis—by the age of 14.
Because doctors restricted him from playing contact sports, Hein took up volleyball in the seventh grade. He never turned back, garnering noteworthy awards, accolades, and admiration during his 33-year volleyball career. One of Hein’s favorite mantras was, “Tough times don’t last…Tough people do,” and the persistence he encouraged in his Chico State players paid off on the court.
“Cody was a loved and respected friend to all of his colleagues in the athletic department and a wonderful coach and mentor to his student-athletes. We are all feeling a tremendous sense of loss today,” said University Director of Athletics Anita Barker. “We are holding his family in our hearts, along with his current and former student-athletes and assistant coaches.”
Taking over Chico State’s women’s volleyball program in 2003, he led the team to more wins than any coach in Chico State volleyball history. Hein was one of the most successful and respected coaches in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), leading the women Wildcats to six postseason berths, four National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship Tournament appearances, 49 postseason conference awards, 29 All-West Region selections, and 13 All-America honors.
Hein was named CCAA Coach of the Year in 2016 and 2006, and the West Region Coach of the Year in 2016, compiling a record of 278-207 in 17 years at Chico State and 324-251 in 20 years at the NCAA Division II level.
“Cody instilled in me a fight and a deeper passion for the game that I had never felt until I came to play volleyball at Chico. He taught me that leadership is working through tough times for the people around you,” said senior Kim Wright, who played on his teams since 2015. “When I was playing for him, I thought he was teaching us about leadership through his words. Now I realize his fight day in and day out was what was really teaching me.”
Hein also cared deeply about creating bonds within the team so they would work together for a common goal. The support between alumni and current players on and off the court, and now after his death, Wright said, is a confirmation of the “family” he created.
“There is so much to be said about Cody Hein: about his character, his passion for coaching, and his absolute dedication to his family. What I can say is that I have him to thank for who I am today,” said senior Bekah Boyle, who has been on his teams for the last four seasons. “Cody not only taught all of us valuable lessons, but he lived the lessons he preached. Coaches can talk about being gritty and struggling to overcome adversity, but Cody lived that. He was the toughest man I’ve had the chance to know, and his legacy will live on.”
Hein underwent his last heart surgery in October 2018 and due to post-surgery complications spent six months at Stanford Medical Center in the Bay Area before returning home to Chico in March 2019. Due to Hein’s ongoing health challenges, which included regular dialysis treatments, Chico State hired Tommy Gott as acting head coach in January 2019. A Chico native, Gott had been an assistant on Hein’s staff from 2009–15 and was Hein’s close friend.
“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Cody Hein,” said President Gayle Hutchinson. “I knew him as a man of integrity deeply dedicated to his family, team, and sport. For 17 years, Cody served as head coach of women’s volleyball, empowering his players through competition. We lost a great coach today. My heart goes out to his family, the team, and the Athletics staff.”
Prior to his arrival at Chico State, Hein served as head volleyball coach at Florida Institute of Technology—where his team earned a 46-44 record over three seasons, broke the university’s record for total wins in a season, and ranked in the South Region’s top 10.
Hein earned his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley in 1994 and went on to complete his master’s degree in sports management at Barry University in 2003. While at UC Berkeley, Hein played collegiate volleyball and was a member of three Collegiate Club National Championship teams from 1991–94. After graduating, Hein served as assistant coach for UC Berkeley’s men’s volleyball program from 1995–97.
With his personal and professional successes, Hein continued a long family history of sporting excellence. A 1990 Los Angeles Times article about Hein (then in his teens) overcoming his health challenges to excel in volleyball also highlighted that his grandfather, Mel Hein Sr., was among the first 15 inductees into the National Football League’s Hall of Fame, never missing a game while playing center for the New York Giants for 15 years. Cody’s father set the world record in the pole vault in 1965 while at the University of Southern California (USC). His brother Gary played on the US National Rugby team, and his other brother, Curtis, graduated from USC, where he played football on a scholarship.
Hein is survived by his wife, Dana, and their three sons: Austin, Jackson, and Davis.
The University flag was lowered on Tuesday, January 28 in his memory.
A celebration of life will be held Saturday, February 15 at Chico State’s Acker Gym from noon – 3 p.m. (doors open at 11 a.m.)—with food and fellowship following at the Madison Bear Garden (316 W. 2nd Street).