Karch Kiraly takes over as U.S. women's head volleyball coach
(AP) -- Karch Kiraly, one of the most decorated volleyball players of all time, has been chosen as head coach of the U.S. women's national volleyball team in preparation for the 2016 Rio Games.
Kiraly, the only athlete to win Olympic gold medals in both indoor and beach volleyball, takes over for Hugh McCutcheon, who led the women's team to a silver-medal finish at the London Olympics.
McCutcheon, who also coached the men's national team that won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing games, has taken over as head women's coach at Minnesota.
Kiraly was McCutcheon's assistant for the quadrennial leading up to London.
"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," Doug Beal, USA Volleyball's chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement. "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."
Kiraly helped lead the U.S. men's national team to indoor golds at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, before winning the gold in the debut of beach volleyball at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
In addition to his Olympic medals, Kiraly won 148 beach tournaments, more than any other player. He was the AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) player of the year six times.
In 2001, he was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame. After his retirement as a player in 2007, Kiraly served as a beach volleyball commentator for NBC in Beijing.
In college, Kiraly led UCLA to three NCAA championships. During his four years, the Bruins lost just five total matches.
A chance meeting on a flight to Seattle brought Kiraly together with McCutcheon, who suggested he join the coaching staff for the U.S. women.
"It was just kind of a random thing. I missed my flight and he was early for his," Kiraly told The Associated Press before the Olympics. "We discussed some things about coaching and all of the sudden it struck him kind of out of the blue - as he was just taking over the U.S. women's team - that it would be awesome to work together."
The U.S. women, currently ranked No. 1 in the world by the sport's international governing body, have never won the gold medal in volleyball, while their male counterparts have won it three times since the sport joined the Olympics in 1964.
The women were considered favorites for the gold in London, but fell 3-1 to Brazil in the final match. Brazil also bested the United States for the gold in the 2008 Beijing final.
"This program has such a history of high performance and accomplished so much, including three Olympic Games silver medals . yet it has never won a Triple Crown Event: a World Championships, a World Cup or an Olympics," Kiraly said in a statement. "At some point, the USA Women will change that, and I yearn to help in that effort."
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.