Karch Kiraly Named U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach

By Bill Kauffman | Sept. 11, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

Bill Kauffman
USA Volleyball Communications
Phone: 719-228-6800
Email: bill.kauffman@usav.org
@USA_Volleyball - USAV Facebook


ANAHEIM, Calif. (Sept. 11, 2012) – Karch Kiraly, a legendary volleyball player in the indoor and beach disciplines who turned to coaching as an assistant for the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team that earned the silver medal at the recent 2012 Olympic Games, has been named the program’s head coach for the next Olympic Games quadrennial culminating at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Games, as announced by USA Volleyball Chief Executive Officer Doug Beal on Tuesday.

“I have revered representing the USA and wearing the Red, White and Blue ever since my first experience with the Junior National Team at 16 years old,” Kiraly said. “It is a tremendous honor to be asked to lead such a powerful volleyball program, and I am thrilled to be able to carry forward the effort expended by this hard-working and talented group of athletes – an effort led by my mentor and friend, previous (U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team) Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon, and his staff.”

“It is hard for me to define how excited I am that Karch has agreed to become our next U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team coach,” Beal said. “I have often heard him compared to Michael Jordan as a dominant performer and personality. It is extremely rare that someone who was so talented and successful on the court can successfully make the transition to that same level in the coaching world. Karch is unique and USA Volleyball is fortunate and lucky to have him to continue the leadership of our National Team program.”

Kiraly, 51, joined the coaching staff in 2009 under the direction of McCutcheon, who has assumed the head women’s volleyball coach position at the University of Minnesota.

“I could not be happier with USA Volleyball's decision to select Karch as the head coach of the USA Women's National Volleyball Team,” McCutcheon said of his successor. “He's a great man and a wonderful volleyball coach - this is a fantastic hire.”

In his first international coaching experience in indoor volleyball, Kiraly helped the program to a 106-39 record over the past Olympic quadrennial. He played a key role in helping the U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team capture its second consecutive Olympic Games silver medal at the 2012 London Games. The Americans finished with a 7-1 record with only a loss to Brazil in the title match.

“I’m attracted to coach the USA Women’s Team for many reasons: first, we have a group of athletes dedicated to fierce effort, to improvement and to redefining what’s possible on a volleyball court,” Kiraly said. “Another appeal is the daily process of a group of people - athletes and staff - striving to be one team, and to being the best team we can be, with the hope that our best might be THE best. A third draw is the strong trajectory the program is already on, with consistent success and numerous podium finishes the last 5 years.”

Kiraly looks to move the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team to an even higher plateau than it already has achieved.

“This program has such a history of high performance and accomplished so much, including three Olympic Games silver medals … yet is has never won a Triple Crown Event: a World Championships, a World Cup or an Olympics,” Kiraly said. “At some point, the USA Women will change that, and I yearn to help in that effort.”

“I am confident Karch will represent USA Volleyball, USA and our sport in the most positive way possible and help us elevate the sport and the USA Women's Team to levels we have not seen,” Beal said. “It is pretty hard to follow the success of our past two Olympics, but no one is in a better situation to do so than Karch. I have worked with Karch at many levels, and I am never ceased to be amazed by his abilities, his accomplishments and his drive. Part of my excitement is anticipating what he can do for our USA Women's Team.”

Earlier in 2012, the U.S. captured the FIVB World Grand Prix gold medal for the third consecutive year. Team USA was 14-0 in the 2012 edition, including victories over Olympic Games bound Brazil twice (No. 2 in the world), Italy (No. 4), China (No. 5), Turkey (No. 7), Dominican Republic (No. 8) and Serbia (No. 9). The U.S. ended the 2012 campaign with a 30-2 record following the Olympic Games.

“I spent much of the last quad focusing on the task at hand, trying to be the best team we could be, especially in London,” Kiraly said. “But as Hugh’s departure drew near, I became thoroughly convinced and excited about carrying this work forward.”

The U.S., currently ranked No. 1 in the world after over-taking Brazil in November of 2011, finished the 2011 season with a 39-10 record. Among the team’s highlights were picking up the silver medal at the FIVB World Cup, their second consecutive FIVB World Grand Prix title, capturing the NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship and winning the bronze medal at the Pan American Cup. Team USA knocked off Brazil twice in 2011, along with three wins over World Cup champion Italy and two wins over China (seven wins over 2012 Olympic Games qualified teams). Overall, the U.S. scored an 11-match victory improvement over 2010 and a 21-victory improvement from two years ago.

“I think it is an incredible decision by USA Volleyball, it is the best decision they could have made,” said Lindsey Berg, a three-time U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball setter. “Having a coach who already knows the core group who will return for the next quad and has the respect from the group and became a big part of our team is a great way to start the quad going for gold in the next Olympics. The experiences that he has gone through, you can’t replace those or ignore every experience in volleyball that he has been involved. To bring that as a coach and be able to relate to players, and know how to communicate these experiences and how to teach them so everyone else will have those experiences is amazing. He is a great technical coach who has been through it all. He is a good game coach and really knows how to talk to us. I think he is going to be so successful and I am so excited for him.”

“I am really happy that Karch has accepted the position as I think it is a great decision on a lot of levels,” said Nicole Davis, libero for the past two U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Teams that won silver in Beijing and London. “Most importantly I think it is great for the continuity of the program on building what has been accomplished over the last four years. Karch was in the gym the past four years learning from a great coach in Hugh (McCutcheon). Karch is a genuinely liked person and he is the type of guy you want to go to battle with. He is already a leader in our gym. I have learned a lot from Karch on the game and how to compete. I think he is a really good fit for the program.”

Kiraly has been recognized by many as the greatest volleyball player ever. He is the only volleyball player –male or female – to win Olympic Games gold medals in both the indoor and beach volleyball disciplines. Further, Kiraly is the first volleyball player – and one of only two ever – to win three gold medals in the sport. Accordingly, his coaching foundation is built around many of the mentors he had during his playing days and his recent coaching tenure.

“My foundational principles were established decades ago, having had the opportunity to play for and work with many of the best coaches in the history of this sport: the short list includes Rick Olmstead, Al Scates, Doug Beal, Bill Neville, Marv Dunphy and more recently Hugh McCutcheon,” Kiraly said. “I lived my athletic career with these principles as my guide, and continue to adhere to them as a volleyball teacher and coach. They are: Mastery of Fundamentals, Relentless Preparation, Elevating the Play of Those Around Us, and Ferocious Competition.”

“We have had some of the most remarkable coaches in the world leading our two National Teams,” Beal said. “I am confident Karch will continue that tradition, legacy and level of success. His passion for the sport, his work ethic, his leadership and competitiveness is almost unmatchable. What is perhaps his most unique ability is being able to relate to each individual member of the team and transfer his knowledge, insight and his support making each of them better and the team stronger.”

As a player, the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) named Kiraly as the greatest men’s volleyball player of the sport’s first century, citing his performance and courage in leading the U.S. Men’s Team to an unprecedented string of championships including the famed “Triple Crown of Volleyball” consisting of gold medals at the 1984 Olympic Games, the 1985 FIVB World Cup and the 1986 FIVB World Championship. Kiraly also captained the U.S. Men’s Team to their second consecutive gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. The FIVB also named him “Best Player in the World in 1986 and 1988.

After his two Olympic Games gold-medal performances, Kiraly went on to play professional volleyball in the Italian League from 1990 to 1992. He won the World Club Championship with his team Il Messaggero in 1991 and was named the most valuable player. His team also won the Italian League championship in the 1990-91 season.

After years of dominating the game on the indoor courts, Kiraly returned to the sand and became equally dominant in beach volleyball. He and partner Kent Steffes captured the 1996 Olympic Games gold medal in beach volleyball as the sport made its Olympic debut in Atlanta.

Before retiring at the end of 2007, Kiraly had won 148 beach volleyball tournaments (144 domestic, 3 FIVB international events), more than any other player in history. He won at least one tournament in 24 of his 27 seasons of playing beach volleyball, claiming titles with 13 different partners during his four-decade long career. Kiraly was named the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) Most Valuable Player six times.

Kiraly still maintains influence on the beach and has been instrumental in its further growth across the United States. He has been active in spearheading the development of the U.S. Open of Beach Volleyball, which was created in partnership with USA Volleyball for the specific purpose of providing an opportunity for adult players to pursue a crowning achievement on a national stage for beach volleyball. In partnership with the Elevation Group, Kiraly backed the creation of the Wide Open beach tour series, a festival and grassroots-based beach volleyball series that started in 2009.

Kiraly was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2001.

Domestically, Kiraly has been bestowed many honors for his volleyball skills. The United States Olympic Committee recognized him in 2008 with induction into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. The American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) inducted Kiraly into its 2005 Hall of Fame Class. In 1992, UCLA retired the All-American’s jersey and inducted him into the UCLA Hall of Fame. Kiraly led the Bruins to a 124-5 record from 1979-82, including three NCAA titles and a runner-up finish. In 2009, Kiraly was inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame and the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America® Hall of Fame.

Kiraly’s introduction to the sport occurred at the age of six. He earned his A and AA rating on the beach at the age of 15 and his AAA rating at 17. After leading Santa Barbara (Calif.) High School to the Southern California Championship title in 1978, Kiraly participated on the U.S. Junior National Team in 1977, 1978 and 1979 leading into his collegiate career at UCLA.

Kiraly now lives in San Clemente, Calif., with his wife, Janna, and sons Kristian and Kory.

Indoor Accomplishments

1988 Olympics (Gold)
- Team captain
- Team MVP
- 137 kills, 16 block stuffs, 15 block assists, 60 percent kill percentage
1987 Pan American Games (Gold)
1986 World Championship (Gold)
- All-tournament honors
- Named "World's Best Volleyball Player" by FIVB President Ruben Acosta
1985 World Cup (Gold)
1985 NORCECA (Gold)
1985 Appointed Team Captain of National Team
1984 Olympics (Gold)
- Outside/swing hitter
- Passer
- Youngest player on team (23)
- Played in all games (19), more than any other player
- FIVB Sportsmanship Award
- Connected on 74 of 158 spike attempts
1983 NORCECA (Gold)
1981 NORCECA (silver)
1979-1982 UCLA
Setter/Hitter (6-2)
1982 NCAA Championship (1st)
1981 NCAA Championship (1st)
1980 NCAA Championship (2nd)
1979 NCAA Championship (1st)
124-5 in Matches during 4 years
1977-1979 U.S. Men’s Junior National Team
1979 World University Games
- Starting setter
1979 Pacific Rim Tournament (1st)
1978 Pacific Rim Tournament (1st)
1977 Pacific Rim Tournament
1976-1978 Santa Barbara High School
- 1978 State MVP (CIF)
- Won 83 straight matches
- Undefeated in senior season

Beach Accomplishments

Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympic Games with Kent Steffes
U.S. domestic tournaments: 1st (144 times) $3,114,998
FIVB international tournaments: 1st (3 times) $83,750

AVP Best Defensive Player 2002
AVP Best Offensive Player 1990, 1993, 1994
AVP Comeback Player of the Year 1997
AVP Miller Lite Cup Champion 1996
AVP Most Inspirational 1998
AVP Most Valuable Player 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998
AVP Outstanding Achievement 2004
AVP Special Achievement 2002
AVP Sportsman of the Year 1995, 1997, 1998
AVP Team of the Year 2004 (Mike Lambert)