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"I pushed him very hard in those days," Dr. Kiraly says. "I was critical of him. I could see him seething inside. I forgot that he was 11 or 12 years old."
Karch was steeled by his experience. When he was 15, opponents started serving to his father, and their partnership soon ended. "My annual treat," Dr. Kiraly says, "is that on Father's Day or my birthday, he will play volleyball with me. It's like getting to play basketball with Wilt Chamberlain."
Do you know that your name, Kiraly, means "I don't like you" in Japanese. But, of course, I don't kiraly you.
At Santa Barbara High Kiraly wore his blond hair at shoulder length and had a body that should have gotten sand kicked in his face. "Karch was a scrawny kid," Hanley recalls, "but he had the biggest calves. Standing under the basket on one leg, he could jump up and stuff a volleyball. The basketball team would watch in amazement."
At UCLA the 6'3" Kiraly cut his hair, gained some 25 pounds (to 195) and helped the Bruins to three national championships and a 124-5 record. In the summer of 1981, after his junior season, he joined the national team and was an immediate starter. "In 1982 we were 13th in the world just before Karch joined the team full time," says Marlowe. "It is no coincidence that when Karch arrived, we began playing well."
Even before the Olympics, Kiraly was the most famous U.S. player ever, which may be damning with faint praise. "I'll be in the grocery store," says Timmons, "and someone will come up to me and say, 'You're a volleyball player. You're that, uh, you're that Karch guy.' His name is synonymous with U.S. volleyball."
Though Karch was, at 23, the youngest member of the Olympic team, he has played in more international matches for the U.S. than anyone else. He is a powerful athlete, with a 41�-inch vertical leap and almost extrasensory court awareness. Last winter Kiraly became the first athlete in his sport ever nominated for the prestigious Sullivan Award. His fame was made more tenable when he finished second after Mark Gastineau in the 1985 Superstars competition. But if volleyball is to really get into the U.S. sporting consciousness, it still has a way to go. For example, at the end of a well-intentioned radio interview, his host turned to Kiraly and naively asked, "Now, Karch, you guys play with 11 guys on a side just like football?"
"People don't see the intricacies of the game," Kiraly says. "The hitter puts the ball away and that's what the spectators see. They only look at the terminal play. They can't work backward to what set that up."
Timmons, however, assuredly can. Although in his own right he is one of the best hitters in the world, he says, "I know that when I am old and confined to a wheelchair with arthritic knees, my grandchildren are going to want to know if I really played with Karch."