In his short time running the women's national team, coach Karch Kiraly has established a close-knit, family culture among his players off the court that has led to hard-nosed, successful volleyball on it.
A gold-medal winning combination? To be determined.
The top-ranked Americans are chasing their first Olympic gold medal in Rio this summer knowing Kiraly will be their long-term leader. That continuity means so much to his former coach and current boss, USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal. The U.S. women's volleyball coach is staying on for the next Olympic cycle ahead of the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
USA Volleyball announced the contract extension Thursday for Kiraly, who won gold medals as a player in beach and indoor volleyball and has embraced establishing a well-rounded program with the national team during the four-year run up to the Rio Games this August.
He has seen those positive strides just this week. The Americans reconvened at their training center in Anaheim, California, on Monday for the true start of Rio preparations, and Kiraly noted, ''We had an amazing first four days of training.''
The best he has been part of, in fact.
''It's been hugely important,'' he said of his players truly caring and trusting each other. ''It's important for our success and I think it also leads to each of our players being able, in the course of this thing that is so difficult, to derive some real satisfaction, some real joy every day. There's not always going to be joy in our gym but there should be some moments where we can smile and we can say, `Wow, that was just awesome,' whatever my teammate did or whatever she did across the net. When we're playing hard and playing well, we're making each other better and the whole level of the gym rises. We're even seeing dividends on that right now.''
An assistant coach on Hugh McCutcheon's staff at the 2012 London Games, Kiraly took over that September with the hopes of getting the Americans on the top step of the Olympic podium this quad after two straight silver medals and losses to Brazil in the gold-medal match.
''Certainly we're going to be facing some massive headwinds,'' Kiraly said in reference to the Brazilians.
The Americans are 102-20 under the 55-year-old Kiraly, who brings instant credibility given his decorated playing career - something his athletes appreciate. During training, he's always eyes up and scanning the court and stopping to check in on his players throughout the workout.
''We just feel frankly honored and very lucky that we've been able to secure Karch's services,'' Beal said. ''The job that he's done up to now in this quad is really exceptional. To be able to have the continuity with someone we value so highly is just a huge plus for our program, for the young women that are making up our teams, so it's really a terrific day for USA Volleyball. It's been a while since we've been able to have this kind of continuity with one of the head coaches of our national team.''
Kiraly hopes to have his assistant coaches for the next cycle, too, though that is on the backburner with Jamie Morrison and Tom Black. In the coming months, Kiraly and his staff must decide on the 12-player roster for Rio.
Beal also hopes to reach a similar long-term agreement with U.S. men's coach John Speraw, who was coaching the UCLA men's team Thursday night in the NCAA semifinals against Ohio State at Penn State.