Hall of Fame coach Marv Dunphy isn’t putting any value in preseason expectations — even if they are high for his Pepperdine team.
Dunphy said in a recent interview with Off the Block that he is more focused on replacing player from last year’s Co-MPSF regular season championship team than preseason discussions about the possibility of Pepperdine winning the NCAA title.
Check out Off the Block’s interview as Dunphy discusses Pepperdine’s preseason, scheduling a road match against a first-team Conference Carolinas program, last season’s controversy surround the NCAA Tournament at-large bid and his time with the U.S. Women’s National Team at the FIVB World Championships.
Off the Block: Coach, you’re back from the FIVB World Championships in Italy and getting your preseason underway. What is this preseason going to be like for Pepperdine?
Marv Dunphy: We need to develop some young guys, some guys to take over a few spots. Parker Kalmbach we won’t see until January. He’s got a back issue. That was the big piece of the puzzle. We are going to have to rely on some young guys if his back is not ready. We’re going to need someone else to replace Kyle Gerrans as an outside hitter.
OTB: This off-season you were able to spend some time with the U.S. Women’s National Team and helped coach them to the FIVB World Championship gold medal. What was that experience like for you working with Karch Kiraly as an assistant coach ?
MD: Tom Black has normally been there [with the U.S. Women’s National Team] but he is with his university. Karch asked me to come along. As you can guess, all the people who are there all the time, the players and the staff, they did all the heavy lifting. Karch did a great job. It’s interesting because a lot of people would look at him and say, “oh he’s able to coach these kids because he was such a good player.” They believe in him not for what he was as a player but for who he is as a coach. He did a fabulous job with this group. His staff and the players, it took all of them because those championships are hard to come by. They are hard to win. People on the outside may not know, but I think even some volleyball people don’t know how difficult it is to win that tournament.
OTB: We’ve seen a lot U.S. success this year with the men winning the FIVB World League and the women winning the FIVB World Championships. From your experience coaching the U.S. in previous Olympics, how important is it to have success leading up the Olympics?
MD: There are a lot of really, really good teams in both the men’s and women’s. In Beijing [at the 2008 Olympics] any one of eight teams could have won a gold medal. This World Championship there were a couple of teams that could have won that. I think there are some really good teams. The margins are pretty thin as you go up the food chain between winning and losing. It’s good to see our sport mature.
OTB: I’d like to switch gears and talk about Pepperdine. A lot of people are saying Pepperdine is the preseason favorite to win the MPSF in 2015. How do you deal with high expectations as coach? Do you like your team to embrace it or do you not talk about it?
MD: Nobody has really seen anything. My guess, they think we have a healthy Parker Kalmbach and someone to replace Kyle Gerrans. I know good volleyball when I see it. We have to develop some players that haven’t been there before. We tied BYU last year for first place. We had a good year, but last year doesn’t mean too much. We have to be better than we were last year. There are a lot of good teams. If people want to say Pepperdine then that’s OK. It’s really up to each coach to prepare his team. The MPSF was pretty young last year. There were lots of teams with most everyone returning, and if they did lose someone they loaded up pretty good.
OTB: Looking at your non-conference schedule, you are opening the season in South Carolina against North Greenville, a first-year Conference Carolinas school. Can you talk about how this match got scheduled?
MD: We have a really good friend, Jonathan Winder and I, and his name is Craig Brown. He owns a minor league baseball franchise in Greenville. We were just brainstorming with him at some point in time for a couple of years about getting our team that way. It will kind of expose [the area to] men’s volleyball. North Greenville is starting a program and we just felt this was the perfect time to maybe help men’s volleyball in that area. We arrive and the match is at 5:30 p.m. and then we do a coaches clinic at 7 p.m. Our practices are open to coaches and players. We’re doing a players clinic, and then we are also playing [North Greenville] again. I think lots of people have done things to help volleyball along the way. I’m pretty excited. … We’re glad to be a part of something that gets [North Greenville] going. Everyone has to start somewhere. I remember we played BYU their first NCAA match. That was pretty fun to go there and be the first team that they played. People still reference that today. You have to start somewhere. We’ll be the more experienced team. I know the people that are putting that event on. It will be a really good event for men’s volleyball in that part of the country. We’re fired up to do it.
OTB: With the way your season ended and the controversy surrounding your team not getting the NCAA Tournament at-large bid, did that influence you scheduling more non-conference matches this year?
MD: For us there wasn’t much controversy. You are either in it or you are not. Afterwards people were asking me. But I think they were asking me and telling me how they feel at the same time — or telling me how I should feel. What we have done in the past is play Lewis back-to-back to open the [2012 season], then Ohio State [in 2011]. … The North Greenville series, there is no voodoo behind that. We want to help Fred [Battenfield] and his [North Greenville] program. Hopefully we are able to do some good there.
OTB: So many West Coast volleyball fans were upset that you did not receive that at-large bid last season. Has your team moved on from that decision from the committee or are your players using it as motivation?
MD: Each team has to have it’s own identity and every year you try to be as good as you can. Some athlete at some time can use some outside motivation. Michael Jordan always had a little ax to grind. I just think either you are good enough or you are not. I hear coaches tell their teams sometimes that it’s us against the world. I hear that so often, I feel sorry for the world. It’s kind of silly. You want to be as good as you can be. We have no control over it. We can only do what we can do.
OTB: We know about all the All-American starters returning for your team like setter Matt West and outside attacker Josh Taylor. Is there a player, though, who was under the radar last year that could surprise everyone in 2015?
MD: I hope they all do. … A player who had a really good year and is into a lot of volleyball is Brennan Anderson our libero. When it came to end of the season awards he may have been overlooked, but he wasn’t overlooked by me. I think he’ll have a good year.