Hugh McCutcheon, a New Zealander who played at BYU, has established himself as one of the greatest American volleyball coaches ever.
He was the head coach of the 2008 USA men’s team that won gold in Beijing, moved over to the women’s side and was so close before winning silver in 2012 in London, and then last year led Minnesota to the Big Ten title, the NCAA national semifinals and was named the 2015 AVCA coach of the year.
When the Rio Games get going this weekend, it will be the first time since 2000 that McCutcheon hasn’t been on the sidelines with a U.S. Olympic team.
“It was a huge honor and a privilege to be in that International volleyball world for so long,” said McCutcheon, who started with the national team after the 2000 Olympics. “It was great.
“But when I chose to leave, as you know, it was about family. So yeah, we’re getting ready for a (college) season here, but I’m real happy that I gave my kids a kiss and a hug this morning before sending them off to camp. And I’ll get to see them tonight and read them some stories.”
There’s no doubt that being the national-team coach takes a toll and comes with the understanding that you make family sacrifices. He and his wife, Wiz, have two children.
“I felt like three (Olympiads) was great. But now I wish them all the best and I’ll be rooting for all of them,” McCutcheon said.
Both of the current head coaches served as his assistant, John Speraw with the men and Karch Kiraly with the women. McCutcheon also coached in those two previous Olympics a handful of players who are still with both teams, including Reid Priddy, David Lee, Jordan Larson, Christa Dietzen, Courtney Thompson and Foluke Akinradewo.
“I’ve got all kinds of connections to (both teams) that are real and meaningful and I wish them nothing but the best, but I’m really quite happy to be here watching and cheering. I haven’t seen an opening ceremonies (on TV) since 2000.”
And not only will McCutcheon be watching the USA teams, the star of last year’s Minnesota team, Daly Santana, made the Puerto Rican Olympic team, that nation’s first to qualify.
“I’m so stoked for her,” said McCutcheon, who begins his fifth season with the Gophers “I’m so happy for her that she gets to be an Olympian and be a part of this historic Puerto Rican campaign.”
McCutcheon, 46, said he’ll be rooting hard for all the USA Volleyball teams, but is entering unchartered territory as a former coach/now fan. Accordingly, will he be nervous and excited while watching?
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I haven’t done it before, so I can’t give you a definitive answer.”