COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 4, 2016) – USA Volleyball is remembering Carl McGown this week. The former U.S. Men’s National Team and Brigham Young University volleyball coach died Dec. 30 at age 79.
McGown has served as a coach, leader and mentor within the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team program for more than 30 years. McGown may have been part of more Olympic Games volleyball coaching staffs than any other person in the world.
His association started as an assistant coach for the U.S. Men at the 1970 FIVB World Championship before being appointed the head coach of the squad for the 1973-76 quadrennial, which included the 1974 FIVB World Championship. For the next 20 years, he was in and out of the U.S. coaching ranks, but never very far away from the team.
McGown returned to the National Team in 1982 as a technical advisor and that began an impressive run of U.S. international success. Team USA went on to win its first Olympic Games gold in 1984. McGown would then serve on the U.S. Men’s staff either as a technical advisor, scout or coach for the next six Olympic Games, including gold medals in 1988 in Seoul and 2008 in Beijing.
In addition to being at seven consecutive Olympic Games, McGown was part of the U.S. Men’s delegation for seven consecutive FIVB World Championships from 1974 to 2002.
While not with the U.S. Men’s National Team, McGown was leading the Brigham Young University men’s volleyball team. He served as BYU’s club head coach for many years before the program transitioned to an NCAA varsity sport. During these early years, BYU won three national club championships before becoming an NCAA sponsored sport in 1990.
After a couple rough years moving into the NCAA ranks, BYU made a meteoric rise to the top of the collegiate world. The program won NCAA Men’s Volleyball National Championships in 1999 and 2001.
In both these championship seasons, McGown was named the AVCA Men’s National Coach of the Year. He stepped down as head coach following the 2002 season, having compiled a 225-137 record in 13 years at the helm of the BYU varsity program.
During his time as coach at BYU, Carl mentored several players who went on to serve as coaches in the Olympic Games. Hugh McCutcheon played under McGown and went on to lead the U.S. Men to the 2008 Olympic Games gold medal followed by the silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games with the U.S. Women.
For his mark left behind on the national team and BYU volleyball programs, McGown was a 2011 inductee into the American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In 2014, USA Volleyball awarded him the James E. Coleman National Team Award.
McGown and his wife Susan Hammond McGown have two sons, Christopher, who was the head of the BYU men’s volleyball team from 2012-15, and Paul. The couple also has five grandchildren.
McGown was very highly regarded in the world of volleyball and particularly in coaching circles. Here are some quotes from those who knew him:
“Carl is great at teaching the game. His coaching has certainly evolved over the last 18 years. Not only is he fundamentally sound as far as the science he applies, he’s also smart enough to figure out that the game is organic and it changes. He’s able to change with the times – he’s a wonderful volleyball coach.” – Hugh McCutcheon – U.S. Olympic coach for the men in 2008 (gold medal) and women in 2012 (silver medal) – in a 2008 USA Volleyball article about his relationship with McGown.
“Honestly, Carl is one of the giants of our sport. He was a rare, special individual, who brought volleyball in new, different, interesting and positive directions.” – Former USA Volleyball CEO and three-time U.S. Olympic Head Coach Doug Beal in an article about McGown on flovolleyball.tv
“I think Carl added a much-needed science to our sport. He impacted the sport with the best way to teach, to practice, to play and to coach. If I varied from that science, there was hell to pay. But it was a good hell. It’s impossible to underestimate how long and hard and well he worked on behalf of USA Volleyball, somewhat behind the curtain. It would be hard for me to put in words what he did and the standard of the work that he did. It was unprecedented. I think sometimes when we were together and he was scouting the other team, I’m
pretty sure we knew the opponent better than we knew ourselves. He was a unique guy at a unique time in our sport and I will be forever grateful for what he did for me and our sport.” Marv Dunphy, head coach of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Men’s Team and head coach of the Pepperdine men’s volleyball team
“Carl was really one of the giants in the volleyball coaching world… He has taught us so much. He is one of the legendary teachers of the game. He has taught us how to use our time in the training gym more effectively; how to maximize the learning and development of motor skill and how to use that knowledge to help our teams develop at the fastest rate possible. He was a groundbreaker in so many of those areas.” – U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly
“The world volleyball family just lost one of its finest teachers, fathers, researchers and national team coaches in the passing today of Carl McGown… Prayers to his wife Susan and all the McGown family. As he brought the facts and no opinions to our sport, the medals since 1984 have had one consistent thing — his coaching and presence. Time to share the science at heaven’s gate my friend. You will be missed by my family more than words can express.” – USA Volleyball Director, Sport Development John Kessel on Facebook
“So many of my successes trickle back to BYU Volleyball and Carl McGown. I don’t remember the stats, the matches, the wins or the losses. I do remember every time he whispered something in my ear in practice. I remember sliding open the iron gate in the Smith Fieldhouse and seeing Carl at the whiteboard. I remember his yellow pad of paper during video sessions. I remember carving down the slopes with him at Sundance. I remember catching a few fish with him and Héctor Lebrón at Wallsburg Creek. I will be forever grateful for all that you have done for me personally, my family and of course the game of volleyball. I will miss you deeply. Much love to the McGown family.” – U.S. Men’s Assistant Coach Mike Wall on Facebook
“Carl had a particular way of speaking. It was matter of fact. I liked that. I got to know him in 2003 when he joined the coaching super-staff leading in to the 2004 Olympic Games. The message that I heard from him that resonated the most was the concept of developing a comfort with discomfort. To embrace the feeling of discomfort and make that the new comfortable. It applied to how we trained, how we competed, how we traveled and certainly has application off the court as well. It’s a message that I still try to embody today.” – Four-time U.S. Olympian and 2008 gold medalist Reid Priddy on his web site
“Condolences to the McGown family, @GMSvolleyball & @BYUvolleyball. A true teacher who greatly influenced our sport and the men he coached.” – U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach John Speraw on Twitter