John Speraw unveiled as U.S. coach
First-year UCLA volleyball coach John Speraw had packed away all of his USA Volleyball gear after the London Olympics, thinking his work with the U.S. men's national team had all but come to an end when he joined the Bruins.
But in the space of the past two weeks, Speraw was pulled into the running as the coach that would lead the U.S. men in the run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
On Monday, he took the job. On Tuesday, he was looking for that packed-away gear to wear at his first news conference.
Speraw, an assistant on the past two Olympic men's teams, will continue on with the Bruins as well as lead the U.S. national team, which is based in Anaheim, Calif.
"This is definitely out of the blue. It wasn't on my radar at all," Speraw said. "I was very happy where I was at. I was happy with the decision that I made. (But) I'm very excited about the possibility of doing it because I felt like it was something that could be done."
His predecessors for the past two Olympics, Hugh McCutcheon and Alan Knipe, had both focused solely on the national team. But a change in the international volleyball competition schedule that moved the World Cup and World Championships to August and September allowed Speraw to take on both jobs.
"Because of those changes, we felt this was something that was very doable," he said. "For me, that was emphasized after spending the last eight months at UCLA. The support at UCLA has been more than I've ever imagined."
Speraw was an assistant coach under McCutcheon for the U.S. men's team that won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. He continued as an assistant under Knipe for the Olympic team that was fifth in London last summer.
The finish off the podium in London was a disappointment for the defending champions, especially after going 4-1 in pool play and capturing the top seed in the quarterfinals. But the U.S. was bounced by Italy in straight sets.
The U.S. team is now ranked fifth in the world by the FIVB, the sport's international governing body.
Speraw said he will be looking to add some young talent to the U.S. roster at the start of this quadrennial.
"I felt like watching the last quad that Russia and Brazil in particular, and Italy and Poland for sure, took some risks on some young guys early in the quad even if it sacrificed early success for long-term development," he said. "I think we are thinking along those lines, although nothing has been really decided yet. I think we are going to have to get some new blood in here and take a look at some new young players and see what they can do early in the quad and in World League."
He added: "I want to make sure that we are at the very best we can four years from now. We are in that exploratory phase about how we are going to construct this roster."
At UCLA, his alma mater, Speraw replaced storied coach Al Skates, who coached the Bruins for 50 years. UCLA is 15-9 so far this season and is No. 4 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings.
Before taking over the Bruins, Speraw was coach at UC Irvine for 10 seasons, leading the Anteaters to three national championships and four appearances in the NCAA finals.
He played at UCLA from 1992-95 and was part of two national championship teams.
"He's a terrifically talented coach who has had a remarkable level of success at the college level," Doug Beal, USA Volleyball's chief executive officer, said in a statement. "He knows the current U.S. men's player pool very well from his experiences over the last two quads. He has mentored under both Hugh McCutcheon and Alan Knipe."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press