Karch Kiraly is generally regarded as the best volleyball player of all-time, winning at every level as an athlete and as a coach.
In college, Kiraly was a four-time All-American at UCLA, leading the Bruins to a record of 123-5 during that time and three NCAA national championships. A biochemistry major who planned to become a doctor and follow in his father’s footsteps, Kiraly then joined the U.S. national team, leading the team to gold medals in the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games and Seoul 1988 Olympic Games.
Kiraly then took his game outdoors to the sand, becoming an elite beach volleyball player. The international governing body FIVB twice named Kiraly the best player in the world and later honored him as the best volleyball player of the 20th century.
Kiraly then teamed with Kent Steffes to win the inaugural beach volleyball gold medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
“He defines volleyball,” says Bill Neville, an assistant coach on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Men’s Team. “It’s as simple as that.”
Kiraly continued playing professionally through 2007, but even after retiring he was not ready to stop winning. He was named head coach of the U.S. Women’s Volleyball Team in 2012 and two years later guided that team to a world championship. At the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, Kiraly directed the American women’s team to a bronze medal.
“It’s been an absolute blast,” Kiraly said after retiring as a player. “I played a kid’s game, I got to do it at the beach, and I was able to support my family. I consider myself incredibly lucky.”