He could have coached any men's volleyball team in the world. He decided, instead, to coach women. Hugh McCutcheon was one of the biggest...

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He could have coached any men’s volleyball team in the world.

He decided, instead, to coach women.

Hugh McCutcheon was one of the biggest stories of the Beijing Olympics, leading the U.S. men’s team to unexpected gold, despite the murder of his father-in-law the day after the Games’ Opening Ceremony.

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Two weeks ago, McCutcheon announced that he had spurned offers to join the lucrative overseas professional volleyball circuit to become the head coach of the U.S. women’s national team.

“Our sport is not like other sports,” said McCutcheon, who will be in Bellevue this weekend for a coaching clinic. “Especially for coaches. There are just not as many opportunities in men’s volleyball as in women’s.”

With the popularity of women’s volleyball at an all-time high, he’ll have a vast pool of world-class American athletes to choose from for the 2012 London Olympics, including current and former Washington players Courtney Thompson, Candace Lee and Becky Perry. The U.S. women won their second silver medal in Beijing, but have never won Olympic gold.

Since the heyday of men’s volleyball in the 1980s, the number of women’s teams playing NCAA volleyball has soared to more than 1,000, compared to just 80 NCAA men’s teams. While every state offers high school girls volleyball, very few offer the sport for boys. There are no male teams in high school or college in the state of Washington.

“I think it’s a shame,” McCutheon said. “It’s a very enjoyable sport, not only to play, but to watch.”

McCutcheon will be joined this weekend and the USA Volleyball Association coaching clinic by former U.S. Olympic coaches Doug Beal and Bill Neville, plus Russ Rose, the coach of two-time defending women’s NCAA champion Penn State, Western Washington coach Diane Flick and Western Oregon coach Brad Saindon.

“When you have coaches who know all that volleyball has become, more and more people will fall in love with the sport,” McCutcheon said. “We want people to be excited about what we’re trying to do.”

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