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November 28, 2023
October 15, 2023
It may be hard to believe now, but Italy was not always a men’s volleyball powerhouse.
They Italians finished eighth in the 1976 Olympics and ninth in the boycott-affected 1980 Moscow Games.
But all of that was before Silvano Prandi came on the scene.
In 1982 Prandi took over the Italian national team and two years later, — boom — in Los Angeles, the “Bel Paese” won their first Olympic medal, a bronze.
For this and his many other accomplishments, Prandi, 75, a distinguished club volleyball coach, is now in the ultimate club, an inductee into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame.
He is the sixth Italian to be so honored, and only the second coach (Julio Velasco is the other) from that country.
Upon learning of his honor, Prandi said, “In my 47-year career at a high level I’ve experienced so many gratifying moments. Certainly the one in the Hall of Fame is one of the most extraordinary.”
Prandi’s influence is so pronounced in the sport that no less than 10 of the players he coached pre-dated him into the Hall, including some of the biggest names in the history of the sport: Dimiter Zlatnov, Craig Buck, Geovani Gavio, Nalbert Betancourt, Giba, Vladi and Nikola Grbic, Lorenzo Bernardi, Samuele Papi and Andrea Gardini.
And yet none of those icons are cited as the best player Prandi has coached. That honor goes to Spain’s incomparable opposite Rafael Pascual (2024 IVBH voters take note).
“Because besides being a great athlete, he was always a great example for his teammates as well.”
And that quote reveals the essence of Prandi. Above all he values those intangibles that make a team great.
Early in his coaching days Prandi was given the nickname “Il Professore,” because he started his working life teaching physical education in state schools. The nickname stuck, and for good reason. To coach all of that high level talent, and get them to listen and perform, is a high wire act in and of itself.
So, what then is the secret sauce?
“I never stopped wanting to learn by constantly comparing myself with coaches, players and anyone who could teach me something,” Prandi said. There is also something else that explains his success, something deeper.
“I was born with a passion for teaching and seeing young people improve.”
Even at 75, Prandi is still coaching at the highest levels of the sport. Since 2015 he has led the French Ligue A powerhouse club Chaumont Volley-Ball 52. American Joe Worsley is one of the setters on that squad.
Prandi was no slouch as a player himself. He earned his bona fides as a top Italian club player for many years, first with Piemonte Volley (1960-1969) and then Pallavolo Torino (1969-1972).
Prandi’s 47-year coaching career began with the Bistefani Torino Club in 1976. He was with them through 1987, with brief intermissions coaching the Italian national team, culminating in that Olympic bronze in 1984.
“It was a great result,” Prandi said. “Italy had never won an Olympic medal, so of great satisfaction for me too!”
From 1988, Prandi put his imprint on many of the top Italian clubs, including household names like Charro Esperia Padova, Tnt Alpitour Cuneo, Lube Banca Marche Macerata, Estense 4 Torri Ferrara, Itas Diatec Trentino, and Bre Banca Lannutti Cuneo.
In 2008 Prandi was recruited to coach the Bulgarian national team, where he remained through 2010. Under his leadership the Bulgarians took home a bronze medal in the 2009 European Championships, one of the best finishes the country has ever had in a continental/world competition. He also returned briefly as Bulgaria’s coach from 2019-2021.
Despite the success on the international level Prandi enjoys coaching his club teams more.
“In clubs you train more time and you have a greater impact on the growth of players,” he said offering the natural response from a man known as “Il Professore.”
Prandi cited former USA Volleyball CEO and 1984 Olympic gold-medal winning coach Doug Beal as a North Star for him.
“I’ve learned from many, but my biggest role model has been Doug Beal,” Prandi said. “He changed my way of understanding volley.”
A lot has changed in both the world at large and volleyball specifically over the last half century. Prandi has seen it all. But what if any changes did he see in his players during that epoch?
“The changes have been mostly mental,” he said. “The players have understood that we coaches give them the bike, but they are the ones who have to pedal harder and harder if they want to win!”