Karch at 60

Anaheim, United States, November 3, 2020 - For some, turning 60 means a big celebration with family and friends, but for the legendary Karch Kiraly today’s birthday schedule features working during the day and a family dinner in the evening.

Anaheim, United States, November 3, 2020 - For some, turning 60 means a big celebration with family and friends, but for the legendary Karch Kiraly today’s birthday schedule features working during the day and a family dinner in the evening.

“No major party or celebration, just a typical weekday in Anaheim working with USA Women, and a family dinner in the evening,” said Kiraly, who has served as head coach of the national volleyball team since September 2012.

“In the evening, my wife Janna, our two sons Kristian and Kory, and I will probably go out to one of our favourite restaurants,” said Kiraly.  “This past weekend we were in Santa Barbara, celebrating my mom Toni’s birthday.”

In his seven years as American national coach, Kiraly has guided the women’s programme to a 222-47 record (82.5 winning percent) highlighted by the country’s first-ever FIVB Volleyball World Championship gold medal in 2014 followed by the 2015 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix title, a bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics and back-to-back FIVB Volleyball Nations League titles in 2018 and 2019.

Karch Kiraly celebrates with the World Championship trophy.

“Watching our indoor women winning their first-ever major championship, the 2014 World Championship, was really special,” said Kiraly, who played on the only American men’s team in 1986 to win the world title. “We’re always hungry for more of that!”

With the 2020 season scrubbed due to the pandemic, Kiraly said the “biggest change is how to adjust to radically reduced amounts of live, in-person human to human interaction, and how to stay connected with people: both family and friends, and also teammates and work colleagues. We’re all in that challenge together - around the world, tens of millions of people have been wrestling with it, because of lockdowns.” 

As for the 2020 Olympic postponement, Kiraly said “we’re all approaching it grateful for the extra time to prepare and sharpen ourselves for battle in Tokyo.”

The only player to win Olympic gold medals as an indoor (Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988) and beach (Atlanta 1996) participant, Kiraly said he has “not thought about coaching on the sand.  I am all in for coaching the USA Women.”

Karch Kiraly (left) and Kent Steffes celebrate at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.

A winner of two international beach medals in 1988 and 1989 when the FIVB started sanctioning events, Kiraly said he has “not had many opportunity to follow beach, just a few AVP tournaments - don’t have enough info to speak knowledgeably about the World Tour.”

As for the World Tour, Kiraly said “I didn’t play many FIVB events, but Hannes Jagerhofer put on amazing events in Klagenfurt, fans always had a blast, I loved the energy there!”. And of course, Brazilian fans always brought their best too, and I loved the challenge of playing in summer conditions (February), where it could be 44 degrees Celsius, and 98% humidity.”

Growing up in Santa Barbara, Kiraly began playing volleyball at age six with encouragement from his father, Dr. Laszlo Kiraly, who had been a member of the Hungarian Junior National team prior to fleeing the country during the Hungarian national uprising of 1956.

Kiraly, who entered his first beach volleyball tournament paired with his father, had a standout indoor high school career where he credited his coach, Rick Olmstead, for teaching him "the value of hard work and dedication."  In college, Kiraly had a hall of fame career at UCLA as the school competed in four-straight national championship matches with titles in 1979, 1981 and 1982.

After playing on the United States national team for eight years (1981-1988), Kiraly played professionally for Il Messaggero Ravenna in Italy for three seasons (1990-1992) where the team won several titles, including the Italian Volleyball League (1991), the Italian Cup (1991), FIVB Volleyball Men's Club World Championship (1991), CEV Champions League (1992), and the European Supercup (1992).

Kiraly's beach career featured 148 career titles as he won at least one tournament in 25 of the 29 seasons he competed in, with titles with 14 different partners. He advanced to the semifinals over 75 per cent of the time in his 354 recorded domestic and international tournaments.

Selected by the FIVB as the greatest volleyball player of the 20th century, Kiraly was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008. He was also inducted into the California Sports (2009) and USA Volleyball (2015) Hall of Fames.

After being Hugh McCutcheon’s assistant when the American women won silver at the London 2012 Summer Games, Kiraly led the United States to the bronze medal at Rio 2016 to join Yuri Chesnokov, Bernardo 'Bernardinho' Rezende and Lang Ping in becoming the fourth individual to win Olympic medals as both a player and a coach.

Hugh McCutcheon with assistant coach Karch Kiraly.

Chesnokov captained the USSR to gold when volleyball made its Olympic debut in Tokyo 1964 and then coached his country's team to bronze (Munich 1972) and silver (Montreal 1976) Summer Games. Lang Ping won Olympic gold for China as a player (Los Angeles 1984) and as a coach (Rio 2016). She also coached Summer Games silver medal teams for China (Atlanta 1996) and the United States (Beijing 2008).

Karch Kiraly (left) and Lang Ping together at a media conference.

Bernardinho won silver as a player at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics before coaching Brazil women's (bronze medals at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000) and men's (golds at Athens 2004 and Rio 2016, and silvers at Beijing 2008 and London 2012) to six Summer Games medals.