NORMAN — University of Oklahoma head volleyball coach Santiago Restrepo announced the hiring of Kelly Files to the open position on his staff Thursday morning. Files, no stranger to the Sooners, served on Restrepo's staff for 12 years from 2004-15 and returns as an assistant coach after 18 months abroad with her family in Azerbaijan.
Files departed the OU volleyball program at the conclusion of the 2015 season to move with her daughter Charlee to Azerbaijan, where her husband Brandon was serving as a Bilateral Affairs Office with the Oklahoma National Guard and the State Department.
Restrepo's relationship with Files dates back to their time at Southern Mississippi together, where Files played for the Golden Eagles from 1998-01 and Restrepo was her coach her senior season. She stayed with the program for two years as an assistant coach before following Restrepo to Norman when he became the Sooners head coach ahead of the 2004 season.
In 2009, Restrepo's youngest son Javier lost his two-year battle with leukemia at age 4 and Files stepped in to coach the team in Restrepo's absence. She helped guide OU to the NCAA Tournament and was honored as the inaugural recipient of the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I National Assistant Coach of the Year.
Files was promoted to associate head coach prior to the 2011 season and in her 12 years at Oklahoma contributed to an overall record of 221-152 with eight NCAA postseason berths, including spots in the 2006 and 2010 Sweet Sixteen. In her first stint at OU, she coached a total of 77 student-athletes, including eight AVCA All-Americans and another six that participated with Team USA. Files left OU in December of 2015 as the longest tenured assistant coach in OU volleyball history and the fourth longest active assistant at OU behind Jan Ross (women's basketball), Melyssa Lombardi (softball) and Cale Gundy (football).
On returning to OU Volleyball:
“My family and I are extremely excited to return to OU. Norman and the University of Oklahoma is home to my family. When I left, I really thought that I had closed the door on that chapter of my life. When Santiago called me to see if I would be interested, I was blown away. I am looking at coming back as a new chapter in my life and a new start in my coaching career.”
On her family:
“This last year in Azerbaijan has been an amazing opportunity for our family. Our time here gave us a great chance to be together and for me to focus on being a mom. As a family unit, we have grown so much together and taken advantage of being immersed in a new and different culture, meeting new people and experiencing a part of the world that was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us. I look forward to having that part of me forever in my heart.”
On relationships at OU:
“The relationships that I built at OU are for a lifetime. That has been proven over the past 20 months that I've been in Azerbaijan. Santiago and Kyle and I remained friends. They are my family. We've stayed in contact throughout this entire time and I talk to at least one of them on a weekly basis and have kept track of the team's progress from afar. They are lifetime relationships that I've been lucky enough to create through Oklahoma volleyball. I'm also grateful for the administration; Joe Castiglione and Greg Tipton along with Santiago, for giving me this opportunity to come back and be a part of the Sooner family.”
On the team:
“I'm very excited to be a part of the team again. This little break has been really good for me mentally as far as reevaluating what I'm doing and the direction my career is in. I had the great opportunity coach at a high school in Azerbaijan and it just reaffirmed my passion for the sport of volleyball and for mentoring young adults; which has never left me. The relationships that I've made with the girls over my career are for a lifetime as well. I'm very excited to be a part of that again. I want to help our student-athletes as best I can to be the best versions of themselves and be ambassadors for themselves and the university.”
On bringing Files back to the OU staff:
“Bringing back Kelly reminds me of how successful OU volleyball has been. We made eight postseasons with her and Kelly is one of the many reasons behind our success. We are extremely excited to have her back. She not only has contributed to our success on the court, but to the well-being of our student-athletes. She immerses herself into every single one of them.”
On what Files means to OU volleyball:
“Together we helped change this program and put it on the map. She was a part of that transformation and one of the driving forces behind our success.”
On Files being a great family person:
“First and foremost, I always talk to Kelly and our team about the importance of family. Her husband Brandon was appointed a position abroad and it was important for her and Charlee to be there as a family. It's important and it matters to be with each other. I supported her move and am glad an opportunity to bring her back in presented itself.”