Named by volleyball’s highest governing body (FIVB) as the greatest volleyball player of the 20th century, Karch Kiraly is currently the U.S. women’s volleyball coach as well as an ambassador for the sport.
During his legendary playing career, he won three NCAA championships at UCLA and then went on to win three Olympic gold medals. He is still the only person to win Olympic golds in indoor and beach volleyball.
He’s in Seattle to promote the 2013 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship, which is being held at KeyArena Dec. 19-21.
Q: Karch, catch us up on what you’ve been up to the past few years.
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A: I became assistant coach of the USA women’s indoor team in early 2009. Then became head coach a little over a year ago. Our USA season just finished up two weeks ago, where we played a tournament called Grand Champions Cup in Japan. And now it’s tournament time.
Q: Who do you like in the final four? Can anyone take down Texas or Penn State?
A: I like both those teams, defending champion and recent dynasty. But I certainly like UW, outright winners of the Pac-12 and home court if they’re playing on December 19th.
Q: When will you start getting the pool of players together for the 2016 Olympics?
A: We already started this year. The first year of every Olympic cycle is the best one for newer and younger players to get lots of game reps, and 2013 was such a year for USA.
Q: What matchup are you looking forward to in this tournament?
A: Assuming the top seeds survive the early battles, UW vs. USC on USC’s home court, Texas vs. Nebraska on Nebraska’s home court, and perennial powers Penn State vs. Stanford should be epic.
Q: There are several former UW players on the national team — what qualities do you value most in prospective team members?
A: USA athletes’ number one job is to learn to improve, to embrace what we call a “Growth Mindset.” The UW athletes are already well acclimated to that having played for coach Jimmy Mac here.
Q: How many college graduates from this year might you have space for on the national team?
A: I don’t have an exact answer, but we’ll have several seniors from this season in the gym.
Q: Do you still keep in touch with many of your gold-medal winning teammates?
A: We stay in touch more from afar than from near, as everyone has gone on to lead very busy lives in their various careers. Latest group email that came through is the ’84 team, contemplating a 30-year reunion coming up.