10 men’s volleyball coaches who deserve consideration for AVCA Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of Penn State athletics

By Jonathan Bates and Brandon Johnson

Plenty of college men’s volleyball coaches have a case to be a part of the next class inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame.

The AVCA is accepting Hall of Fame nominations through May 22. Anyone can nominate a coach, administrator or organization to be considered for the annual induction process.

To be eligible, a nominee must be a coach, educator, or administrator for at least 15 years. Additionally, organizations can be nominated, provided they have been associated with the sport for at least 10 years.

Among the previous Hall of Fame inductees the men’s volleyball includes Al Scates (UCLA), Marv Dunphy (Pepperdine), Don Shondell (Ball State), Arnie Ball (Purdue Fort Wayne), Pete Hanson (Ohio State), Carl McGown (BYU) and Tom Tait (Penn State).

Off the Block has listed 10 eligible candidates who we believe should be considered for the AVCA Hall of Fame. This list includes both head coaches and assistant coaches, and members from NCAA Division I-II and NCAA Division III.

Harlan Cohen

U.S. Men’s National Team assistant coach (1966, 1972, and 1976)
U.S. Women’s National head coach (1966-68)
Pepperdine men’s volleyball assistant coach (1973-74, 1985, 1992-2003)
UCLA men’s volleyball assistant coach (1986-1991)
Pepperdine men’s volleyball head coach (1975-76)

Maybe nothing stands out more than the fact Cohen is the only assistant to win a national title under both Hall of Fame coaches Al Scates and Marv Dunphy. Even with the coaching stops listed above, it is incomplete.

The 1987 UCLA men’s volleyball team not only won the national title but also holds the program record for most wins in a season (38 – tied with the 1984 team). He holds a 433-143 record as an assistant coach at Pepperdine and UCLA. Cohen’s 23-9 record as a head coach is second best by winning percentage in Pepperdine men’s volleyball history. Pepperdine’s 1985 national championship team set the program record for highest winning percentage in a season at .926 while the 2002 team holds the record for most single-season wins at 29.

Patrick Dorywalsk

Stevens men’s volleyball head coach (1990 – current)
Stevens women’s volleyball head coach (1986 – 1999)

Dorywalski completed his 31st season as the head coach of the Stevens men’s volleyball program. Dorywalski is the lone head coach in the history of the program while also serving 14 seasons as the head coach of the women’s volleyball team from 1986-99.

He holds a 635-280 record as a head coach of the men’s team and a 771-430-1 record across both squads.

Dorywalski led the Ducks to the Division III NCAA Tournament seven times, including winning the title in 2015. It also the only NCAA team title in the history of the school.

Dan Friend

Lewis men’s volleyball head coach (2005 – current)
Newman women’s and men’s volleyball head coach (2002-2004)

Dan Friend completed his 23rd season as a collegiate head coach and has a 482-239 overall record.

Friend in 16 seasons at Lewis has accumulated a 323-155 (.671) record. Among his accolades are two MIVA Tournament championships (2012 and 2019) and winning the 2015 National Coach of the Year award.

In 2015, he took the Flyers to the program’s second NCAA Tournament finals appearance. The Flyers are the only Division II school to ever be ranked No. 1 in the national coaches poll (four times), in the top five (47 times) and to make the NCAA Tournament final.

Friend took over as interim head coach of the Lewis women’s team in 2006. The women’s team went 17-3 under Friend, finishing with a 25-6 overall record, a conference championship, and a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Friend started the men’s volleyball program at Newman in 2002. He was named NAIA National Coach of the Year after leading the 2004 squad to a 29-11 mark and a national runner-up finish. He was inducted into Newman’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

Ernie Hix

USC men’s volleyball head coach (1974 – 1981)

Hix is known as the Father of USC Men’s Volleyball after building the program in its early years as the head coach.

Hix not only won NCAA titles in 1977 and 1980 and finished as runner-up in 1979 and 1981 but  won 73.8 percent of his matches at USC with an overall record of 138-49.

Mark Pavlik

Penn State men’s volleyball head coach (1995 – current)

In his 26 seasons at Penn State, Pavlik has compiled an astounding 584-207 record, and is the winningest active coach in collegiate men’s volleyball.

During his time with the Nittany Lions, Pavlik has won two national titles, in 2008 as the head coach, and in 1994 as an assistant.

Pavlik won the AVCA National Coach of the Year in 2008 and has been named EIVA Coach of the Year 8 times, while winning the conference 22 times.

Ken Preston

UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball head coach (1979 – 2008)

Preston was the Gauchos head coach for 30 years, compiling a record of 516-381. Preston’s squads had a winning record 19 times, while also earning 19 postseason appearances. 

In 1988, Preston helped lead UC Santa Barbara all the way to the national title match before losing in five games to USC. 

At the time of his retirement, Preston was the second winningest active head coach in men’s volleyball. 

Sometimes championships don’t tell the whole story of a coach’s contribution to a sport. Five of his former players were coaching on the women’s side in 2019, including three head coaches. Additionally, Stanford men’s volleyball head coach John Kosty played under Ken Preston.

Ray Ratelle

Long Beach State men’s volleyball head coach (1982 -2000)

We could have easily gone with current Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe, but Ratelle is the one who built the foundation of what is the Long Beach State men’s volleyball program. Ratelle compiled a career mark of 385-190 (.670) with three conference titles to his credit. He led the Beach to its first NCAA Championship (1991) and two other NCAA Tournament finals appearances (1990 and 1999). He was selected as the 1991 National Coach of the Year.

Gary Sato

Pepperdine men’s volleyball assistant
USC men’s volleyball assistant (2015 – current)
U.S. Men’s National Team head coach (1985)
U.S. Men’s National Team assistant coach 1984-1988, 1992, 2009-2012)
Japanese Men’s National Team head coach (2013)

Sato’s coaching career has taken him across the globe.

A member of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, Sato won two national titles as an assistant at Pepperdine (1978 and 2005) and has won a gold medal (1988) and a bronze medal (1992) as an assistant for the United States. He also won FIVB gold medal in his only stint as head coach of the United States. Having coached for parts of three decades as an assistant with the Waves he has a record of 132-43 (.752 winning percentage).

John Speraw

UC Irvine head coach (2003 – 2012)
UCLA men’s volleyball head coach (2013- current)
U.S. Men’s National Team head coach (2013 – current)

Speraw is one of the most decorated names in men’s volleyball, having played a part in eight national championship teams. Speraw won three national championships as a head coach at UC Irvine. In 2007, he also became the first person to win a national championship as a player, an assistant and as a head coach.

Throughout his head coaching career Speraw’s record stands at 348-190.

Speraw led the United States to a bronze medal at the Olympics in 2016. In addition, Speraw, as an assistant coach, helped the United States win the gold medal at the Olympics in 2008.

Charlie Sullivan

Springfield men’s volleyball head coach (1999 – current)

In his 22 years, Sullivan has distinguished himself as the most successful coach in the history of NCAA Division III men’s volleyball. In his time at Springfield College, his teams have compiled a record of  442-186. Sullivan has won 11 national championships with the Pride, a three-time AVCA Division III National Coach of the Year, six-time EIVA Division III Coach of the Year, and two-time ECAC Division III Coach of the Year.