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Two Successful Coaches, but Only One Job : Return of First Could Serve Up a Dilemma in Pepperdine Volleyball

October 16, 1986|SCOTT ROSENBERG | Times Staff Writer

There will be some interesting decisions made at Pepperdine University in 1988.

They involve the fate of two coaches, one past and one present. One, Marv Dunphy, has already proved what he can do with a volleyball team. That's why he is currently guiding the U.S. National Team in San Diego, preparing for the '88 Olympics in Seoul.

Rod Wilde, who replaced Dunphy at Pepperdine before the 1986 season, led the Waves to a national championship in his first year as coach.

Dunphy's squad won the title the previous year.

So, what if Wilde, the 29-year-old former Wave All-American, continues to win national titles? Dunphy, if he wants, can return to Malibu when his tour with the U.S. team ends. But if Wilde continues the kind of success he's had, it might be awfully hard to make a coaching change.

Knows Adversity

If, however, Wilde must step down as head coach, it won't be the first time in his volleyball career that he has had to deal with adversity.

A three-time All-American setter, Wilde led the Waves to the 1978 national crown.

His coach was Marv Dunphy.

After graduating, Wilde joined a pro league, leading an Arizona club to the championship. The league folded the next year, and, after spending time doing odd jobs, Wilde tried out for the 1984 Olympic team.

He made it, but broke his leg two months before the Olympics began in Los Angeles. In a tournament in the Soviet Union, a Soviet player came under the net just as Wilde was in mid-air. Wilde broke his left leg in two places when he landed on the Russian.

'Just Devastating'

"After training for 2 1/2 years, I felt the victory of attaining my goal. Then, to have it taken away because of an accident . . . it was just devastating," Wilde said.

But forget, if you can, that one incident. Everything that has happened to Wilde since then reads like a movie script.

Dunphy made his decision to leave Pepperdine in January, 1985, and Wilde was suggested as a replacement by Athletic Director Wayne Wright.

What did Dunphy think of his former pupil taking over for him?

"A very positive move for the program," Dunphy said from San Diego. "It goes back to his days as a player. Some guys are big and strong, some guys have a great arm swing. Then there's the guy who has great court sense and intelligence.

"And that is Rod Wilde."

Wilde's gifts as a volleyball player are unexpected considering where he was born and reared: Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Parents Involved

But his parents introduced him to the sport. His mother coaches a high school team back in Fort Dodge, and his father is on the Board of Directors of the United States Volleyball Assn.

"I've been involved in volleyball all my life," Wilde said. "The coaches in Iowa told me to get out to California. Marv recruited me from a volleyball camp in Santa Barbara, and the rest is history."

After his career at Pepperdine, Wilde joined the pro league, but when it folded, went on to landscaping and other pickup jobs. After he broke his leg, he became women's volleyball coach at Drake University in Iowa.

"When Marv decided to leave, he contacted me," Wilde said. "It was just too big of an opportunity to pass up.

"The fact that he may return doesn't bother me. If I want to stay on as an assistant coach or in the university somewhere, I will have that option. It's not positive that Marv is coming back. It will be a tough transition for him, going from the elite back to college. It's a matter of what he wants to do."

Dunphy said that while nothing is certain, his plan as of now is to return to Pepperdine in 1988.

To the Waves players, it really doesn't matter who the coach is. The team is talent-rich, and each individual feels that the team can win no matter who is coach.

"It's going to be a little bit of an adjustment when Marv comes back, but all the guys are flexible," said Troy Tanner, a senior outside hitter who is one of the top college players in the nation. "I don't think there'll be a big change."

Said Matt Rigg, another senior outside hitter: "When Marv got the offer, he called me to his office and asked me what I felt. I told him anything that benefits him, he's got to do. There's a lot more money, more benefits. It didn't really hit us at first. Most of the guys knew Rod, so that helped."

Still, there was an adjustment to be made. While their coaching philosophies are very similar, Wilde and Dunphy are on extreme ends of the personality scale.

This did have an affect on the team.

"Rod's real fiery," Tanner said. "He gets excited. He's very emotional. We respect him, but he's a little more fiery than Marv, and that took some getting used to."

Another difference between the two coaches is that while Dunphy was considered a tough leader, an authoritative figure, Wilde is looked upon as much as a friend as a coach.

And he does nothing to stifle that feeling among his players.

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