COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 28, 2017) – USA Volleyball was saddened to learn of the death of Olympian and Volleyball Hall of Fame member Mike Bright, 79, on Sept. 22.
When volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1964, Bright represented the United States, in Tokyo. He was also a member of the 1968 Olympic team in Mexico City and the 1972 U.S. Qualifying Team.
Bright was a member of the 1960 U.S. National Team that played in the World Championship in Brazil, and won a silver medal at the 1963 Pan American Games.
Bright was also a successful beach volleyball player and won the Manhattan Beach Open tournament with partner Mike O’Hara five years in a row (1960-64). He was enshrined in the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Along with volleyball, Bright participated in paddle boarding and surfing and competed in both when they were exhibition events at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia.
Bright, who spend most of his life in Hermosa Beach and Malibu, Calif., was paralyzed from the waist down at age 37 after getting the bends while scuba diving. He continued to run his dive shop, swim and be active in sports.
Daughter Bonnie Bright remembered her father’s determination and sense of humor.
“He tried this jet propelled diving device that he would hold onto and propel himself through the water,” she said. “He realized it would just spin him in a spiral. That made him laugh so hard!”
But volleyball dominated in the Bright family as Mike married 1964 and ’68 U.S. Olympic volleyball player Patricia (Patti) Lucas, who went on to become a top coach and is also enshrined in the Volleyball Hall of Fame. Patti Bright died in 2004.
Patti coached daughter Bonnie’s high school volleyball team, but Bonnie also remembers Mike coaching her club team.
In recent years, Mike and Bonnie’s family have shared a home with a beach volleyball court and Bright Volleyball Club in the back yard. “Dad would watch from the deck and shout pointers,” she said.
Mike Bright played his first national tournament in 1960 with the Hollywood YMCA. During the next 13 years, he led his team to eight championships and three runner-up finishes. He was named an all-American nine times in that period and was awarded the U.S. Volleyball Association’s (later, USA Volleyball) "All-time Great Player" Award in 1983.
Bright is survived by his four children, Jodi, Lari, David and Bonnie and his sister Donna Bright Dobson. He also has seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Memorial events are pending. The family is expecting to hold a paddle-out in Hermosa Beach at 9 a.m. on Oct. 28.
Bonnie is forming a Mike Bright Beach Volleyball Foundation to provide beach volleyball scholarship money to Bright VBC’s college-bound players.
Donations can be made to US Bank, Mike Bright Beach Volleyball Foundation Routing # 122235821 Account # 157513852564.