In his third year at the helm, U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon has brought his team back from disappointment in 2006 and has had them standing on the podium in every event thus far in 2007.
It doesn’t get any easier, though. The next tournament will be the most important of the year as the U.S. Men try to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games at the 2007 FIVB World Cup.
The U.S. Men opened the season with a third-place finish at World League. The United States went 10-2 in pool play, with two losses to France. It went 2-2 in the final round, defeating host Poland in the bronze-medal match in front of more than 10,000 Polish fans. The finish was a big improvement on the 10th-place the team achieved at the 2006 World League tournament.
“It was a matter of the guys just working really hard,” McCutcheon said. “We talked about it before the match; we weren’t going to leave the floor without doing everything we could. Guys were covering, guys were playing defense.”
McCutcheon handed the team over to assistant coach Ron Larsen for the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The team finished 4-1, with its only loss coming to hometown favorite Brazil in the gold-medal match.
“I think we achieved everything we wanted to achieve out of Pan Ams,” McCutcheon said. “We got some valuable experience for our younger players. We also got multi-sport experience for those guys who hadn’t been to a ‘games’ before.”
McCutcheon and his men won the gold medal in the Americas’ Cup, defeating a young Brazilian team in the final. Then they moved on to the NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship, which was held in Anaheim, Calif., home of the U.S. Men’s Team.
McCutcheon’s team rolled through the NORCECA Championship, defeating Puerto Rico, 3-1 in the final. McCutcheon was presented with the inaugural Jim Coleman Award as the tournament’s most outstanding coach.
The U.S. Men encountered some bumps in the road to Beijing in 2006. Nevertheless, the team finished the season with a winning record at 18-14.
In April, McCutcheon and the team moved their center of operations from Colorado Springs, Colo.. The move had many benefits as it put the team in the center of the volleyball universe in Southern California and also removed the effects of Colorado’s high altitude on the team’s serves.
The team opened the international season by winning the inaugural Pan American Cup in Mexico, taking four matches in a row. That was followed with a tour of Argentina where the U.S. men finished 4-1.
But injuries and the disruption caused by the moved to Anaheim caught up with the team at the World League, where it did not advance from pool play and finished tied for 10th.
That was followed by another 10th-place finish at the 2006 World Championships in Japan. The U.S. Men’s world ranking slipped from fifth to eighth.
“We struggled to maintain the consistency we had (in 2005),” McCutcheon said. “The same issues we had during the summer (in the World League) were the same we had at the World Championships. Integrating the players was difficult.”
However, 2006 ended on a high note for McCutcheon, 36, who married U.S. Women’s National Team player Elisabeth Bachman on Dec. 9 in Minneapolis.
The USA Men’s National Volleyball Team flourished in McCutcheon’s first year as head coach in 2005 by going 27-6 and winning five medals in five tournaments.
The team earned a silver medal at the USOC International Sports Invitational in San Diego, Calif., gold medals at the America's Cup in Brazil, the FIVB World Championship Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico and the NORCECA Continental Championship in Canada and another silver medal at the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup in Japan.
McCutcheon was selected to become the new head coach of the USA men’s national volleyball team, USA Volleyball announced Feb 3, 2005.
McCutcheon took over the position from long-time head coach Doug Beal, who resigned to become the new Chief Executive Officer of USA Volleyball.
“It is a great undertaking, obviously, but I am honored and privileged to be the coach of this team,” said McCutcheon. “I am genuinely excited to work with the guys and to continue my relationship with USA Volleyball.
“I have a lot of enthusiasm and passion that I can bring to the job,” he added. “I am at a position in my life to really commit myself to this job and give it the time and the energy that it requires for this team to continue the success that it has had.
“Obviously there is a change of the guard but I think in terms of the systems we’re going to play…the way we are going to play the game, fundamentally, is going to be the same. But I think the gym culture and maybe my ability to relate to the guys is going to be something that is a little bit different.”
McCutcheon, a former Brigham Young University assistant coach, joined USA Volleyball as a full-time assistant coach for the men’s national team program in April 2003.
McCutcheon filled the spot previously vacated by Brad Saindon, who resigned in February 2003 to become the women’s volleyball head coach at Arizona State University.
“I am very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement with Hugh to become the next USA men’s coach,” said Beal, who guided Team USA to an Olympic gold medal in 1984 and also coached the USA men at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. “I think his familiarity with the international men’s world right now, his history with the current group of USA athletes and his role in preparing the team as an assistant in Athens gives him the best opportunity to continue the upward climb of the USA men.”
McCutcheon was no stranger to the organization. In the summers of 2001 and 2002, respectively, he served as a volunteer assistant coach for the men’s national team, helping out during the 2001 World League, the 2002 World Championships and on five international tours. He has also served as the head coach of the USA Boys Youth National Team in 2000 and 2001.
He was the top assistant coach and recruiter for BYU from 1995-2001. During that time the Cougars posted a record of 138-44 and captured two NCAA men’s volleyball championships (1999 and 2001).
After leaving BYU, McCutcheon was the head coach of the Vienna Hotvolleys in Austria for two seasons. In his first season there, the Hotvolleys won the 2001-02 Inter-Liga, Austrian Cup and Austrian League championships, and he had the opportunity to work with USA national team players Rich Lambourne, Dave McKienzie, Reid Priddy and Brandon Taliaferro. He also coached the first Austrian team to ever beat an Italian A1 opponent.
McCutcheon, a native of Christchurch, New Zealand, played on the New Zealand junior and senior national teams from 1988-90 before coming to the United States. He was also a member of New Zealand’s national team in 1996 and represented his country on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour in 1997.
He played for BYU from 1991-1993 after transferring from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. In 1993 he earned honorable mention All-America honors. In 1992 he earned Academic All-Conference honors from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in physical education from BYU in 1993, McCutcheon played professionally for two years in Finland and Japan before returning to BYU to complete his master’s degree in exercise science in 1998. In 1999, McCutcheon received an MBA from BYU’s Marriott School of Management.