In mid-February, the Japan Volleyball Association announced the hiring of Gary Sato as the new head coach of their men’s national team. The former U.S. Men’s National Team assistant coach helped lead the team to a gold medal in 1988 in Seoul and a bronze in 1992 in Barcelona. The JVA has never hired a foreign head coach for its national team before, but after failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics with former coach Tatsuya Ueta, they were willing to try something new.
Sato began his coaching career at Pepperdine, where he served as the men’s assistant coach intermittently between 1978 and 2005, and as the women’s head coach from 1979 to 1982. The 58-year-old is also a practicing chiropractor in Santa Monica, although that will probably have to be put on pause for the next four years as he sets about preparing the Japanese team for Rio.
Volleyball has always been a very big part of Sato family life. Gary grew up the eldest of six children. His brother Eric was a member of the 1988 and 1992 Olympic squads that earned gold and bronze, respectively; sister Liane played on the 1988 and 1992 U.S. Women’s Olympic Teams, winning bronze in 1992; and brothers Scott and Glenn both played Division I college ball, at San Diego State and Loyola Marymount, respectively. The eldest Sato now has three children with wife Sandra—Andrew, Katie, and Malia—who all play competitive volleyball. Andrew starts as libero for the highly-ranked Long Beach State squad, and Katie and Malia play high school and club.
Originally published in May 2013