Blogtober Day 3: Karch Kiraly
The fact that he's the only volleyball player in history to medal in both indoor and beach at the Olympics is probably a good place. It just so happens that those medals are gold. Oh, and there are also three of them.
Karch won three NCAA Championships as an indoor player at UCLA before joining the U.S. national team, with whom he won Olympic gold in 1984 and 1988 (captaining the '88 team). Then he retired from the national team, only to become the winningest player in the history of beach volleyball, earning more than $3 million in prize money. Freakin' overachiever.
According to BVBinfo.com, "He has won at least one tournament in 24 of the 28 seasons he has played, spanning four different decades. He has claimed a title in 24 different states with 13 different partners. In domestic events, he has finished lower than ninth place only four times and has been in the semifinals over 80% of the time." And he and partner Kent Steffes won the first-ever men's Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball, in 1996.
Karch retired from beach after the 2007 season as a 47-year-old that was routinely beating opponents that were half his age. Now he's the head coach of the U.S. Women's National Team because, well, why the heck not?
Karch Kiraly is to volleyball what Michael Jordan is to basketball, what Babe Ruth is to baseball, and what Wayne Gretzky is to hockey.
He's The King. Plain and simple.
And it just so happens that I got to interview him yesterday! I wrote the preview for the women's U23 team going to worlds, and he's the head coach of that team, so I called him up for some quotes. "Yes, hello, best volleyball player ever?"
This was probably the most nervous I've ever been for an interview, though the fact that I barely had an hour to mentally prepare myself probably contributed to my sweaty palms and restlessly jiggling feet. But there's nothing like a pre-interview crisis (i.e. no long distance plan on the phone in the conference room I was going to use, no biggie) to get you in the zone, right?
After a quick hustle over to a different room, I gave him a call about five minutes after our scheduled time.
"Hello, this is Karch."
I froze for the tiniest split second (because, holy crap, it's Karch!), but then introduced myself and apologized for the delay-causing phone troubles. He was completely nice about it. So that was a relief, and by now I've done so many coach interviews like this that it was a piece of cake from there on. Karch gives a great interview; he doesn't talk too fast, pauses a lot, and uses incredibly eloquent full sentences, making for really easy transcription and requiring very little editing.
And that's the story of how I chatted on the phone with a living legend. The end. :)