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No Place Like Home : Well-Traveled Wave Spiker Coach Back for 3rd Time

January 19, 1989|STEVEN FLEISCHMAN | Times Staff Writer

After three years of nearly uninterrupted travel, jet lag, world-wide attention and lots of volleyball wins, the seemingly always-changing life of Marv Dunphy finally appears to be off the high octane roller coaster.

Dunphy, 41, is content to be back home at Pepperdine for his third stint in 12 years as men's volleyball coach.

The first time Dunphy left his job came after the Waves' first national championship in 1978. He wanted to pursue a doctorate in physical education at Brigham Young University. He was unsure whether his career lay in education or coaching.

Then in 1985, Dunphy, who had started his second stint as Waves coach in 1982, took the prestigious job as the coach of the U.S. national team. He joked that he wasn't sure that he'd have a job to come back to.

This time, however, he says he is staying put.

"It wasn't a difficult decision," said Dunphy about coming back to Pepperdine. "The Olympic position was a good job, but Pepperdine is a great job too."

Under Dunphy's leadership, the national team established itself as the world's best. With the gold medal in Seoul, the U.S. completed volleyball's equivalent of horse racing's Triple Crown with wins over the Soviets in the title matches of the 1985 World Cup and 1986 World Championships.

The U.S. also won the gold at the 1987 Pan Am Games. The only major tournament the Americans did not win under Dunphy was the 1986 Goodwill games in Moscow, when they lost to the Soviets in the five-game final.

"Marv picked up right where Doug Beal left off in terms of keeping the excellence in the program," team member Karch Kiraly said. "He had a stabilizing influence on us. We play emotionally and sometimes needed to be reigned in."

When Dunphy accepted the national team position in 1985, after the Waves captured their second national championship, Pepperdine granted him a leave of absence, assuring him of his job if he so desired. But when the national team began to enjoy success, pressure mounted for the Topanga Canyon native to keep the job after the Olympics.

Adding to speculation that Dunphy might stay on as the national team's coach, his successor at Pepperdine, Rod Wilde, led the Waves to a national championship in his first season, 1986.

Dunphy insists that he always planned to come back to Malibu, to his office with the million-dollar view of the Pacific Ocean.

"When I took the (national team) job, it was based on my returning to Pepperdine after the Olympics," Dunphy said. "Along the way, the people in the (U.S. Volleyball Assn.) are talking to me about considering to stay on. "It was a great job. It's the best position you can have in our sport . . . , but when you sign up for a trip that (will keep you) away from home for 21 days, that's rough on your family life."

The extensive travel and time spent away from wife Su and their three children was the primary factor in Dunphy's decision to return to Pepperdine.

The showdown with the Soviets in Seoul was expected, even though the teams had never met in an Olympic final. The Soviets took the gold in 1980 with the Americans boycotting, and the Americans turned the tables four years later in the Soviet-boycotted Los Angeles Games.

Dunphy was confident that his team would repeat.

"We had a couple of injuries going in, but I always had a lot of confidence," Dunphy said. "I felt particularly good about our chances. We were the most competitive volleyball team ever and probably one of the most competitive sporting teams--period."

Just hours after the gold medal game, Dunphy declined to attend the closing ceremonies. He stayed in his hotel room to write letters of thanks to to his staff members.

"The other coaches said, 'Come on, Marv. Let's go.' " he said. "I said, 'No. My job is done.'

"The points and the games fade over time. The people tend to last. I'll remember the people and the satisfaction of having done a job well."

Now Dunphy, who lives in Newbury Park, has the uphill task of trying to turn his alma mater back into national champions after a 14-13 1988 campaign. The Kilgour Cup, Friday at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, should be an indicator for the Waves' season. Pepperdine opens against the Bruins, who are ranked third nationally by Volleyball Monthly but were beaten by the Waves in the third-place game of the Santa Barbara Classic last weekend.

Leading the Waves, who have no incoming players, are returning starters Geoff Hart and Randy Bergstedt. A sophomore, Hart was a second team All-Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. selection last season when he led the Waves with 479 kills. A walk-on as a freshman in 1986, Bergstedt had 475 kills last year.

"We just have guys that have not had a lot of playing time," said Dunphy. "We have a setter that has set one ball in collegiate volleyball . . . but I guarantee that we're the kind of team that will get better."

Dunphy says he is content to stay at Pepperdine and finish building his house on a four-acre lot in Decker Canyon.

The roller coaster ride is over, but the memories of the games and of the people remain.

"I wonder a bit if I'll ever see some of those people again," he said, staring at the ocean. "There's a certain--not sadness--but it's like, hey, things change. That part of Marv Dunphy is behind me now. I'm here."

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