Over the past decade, U.S. Men's Volleyball Team has been looking to return to the greatness it experienced in the 1980s and '90s when it won two Olympic gold medals (1984 and '88) and a bronze (1992) as well as an FIVB World Cup (1985) and World Championship (1986).
In 2006, the team moved its headquarters from the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., to the American Sports Center in Anaheim, Calif. While the move did not pay dividends immediately – the team finished 10th at both the 2006 World League and World Championship – things improved greatly in 2007.
Now ranked third in the world following a third-place finish at the 2007 World League and a fourth-place at the 2007 World Cup, the U.S. Men could be on the verge of a season of greatness, thanks to a roster of veterans and younger players led by Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon.
USA made it to the final round of the World League (in Katowice, Poland) last year for the first time since 2000 and they defeated hometown favorite Poland, 3-1 (25-19, 25-21, 22-25, 25-19) for a third-place finish.
Third place is the best World League finish for the United States since 1992, when it also placed third. U.S. libero Rich Lambourne was named Best Libero for the 2007 World League.
Team USA started brilliantly at the 2007 World Cup by defeating Brazil in three sets (28-26, 30-28, 25-20).
But that victory was followed by two straight losses to the lower-ranked Puerto Rico and Spain.
They recovered in the subsequent matches but a five-set loss to Russia in their final match meant Brazil, Bulgaria and Russia finished 1-2-3 to take the available Olympic spots.
A few weeks later, the U.S. Team made sure of a place in Beijing in the NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualifier in Caguas, Puerto Rico. The U.S. Men won the tournament with a 5-0 record and without dropping a set, downing Puerto Rico in the Final.
Four members of the U.S. Men’s National Team were honored for their play. Rich Lambourne was named best libero and best receiver. Rooney won best spiker. Millar was named top blocker and Stanley took best server.
U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon, 38, a native of Christchurch, New Zealand, has brought his team back from disappointment in 2006 and helped it reach a No. 3 world ranking and qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
However, it took a little longer than he hoped.
A fourth-place finish at the FIVB World Cup (where the top three teams qualified for the Olympics) at the end of 2007 meant the team had to travel to Caguas, Puerto Rico for the NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualifying Championship on Jan. 6-11. The U.S. Men won five straight matches without dropping a set to win the tournament and qualify for the Olympic Games.
“I feel relieved and excited,” McCutcheon said. “The team rose to the occasion and we executed in all the aspects of the game. So many guys performed at their highest level and with a lot of energy.”
The U.S. Men opened the 2007 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.
“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. It was a great team effort. ”
McCutcheon handed the team over to assistant coach Ron Larsen for the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The United States 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 the United States hosted the NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship in Anaheim, Calif.
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.
In 2006, the U.S. Men encountered some bumps in the road to Beijing. 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 moving the team from Colorado Springs, Colo., to Anaheim, Calif., 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, who married U.S. Women’s National Team player Elisabeth “Wiz” Bachman on Dec. 9 in Minneapolis.
The U.S. Men’s 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 Americas’ 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 longtime 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.”
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 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.
McCutcheon 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 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.
Fourth Year (83-28)
Hometown: Christchurch, New Zealand
Resides: Irvine, Calif.
Family: Married to Elisabeth "Wiz" McCutcheon
College: Brigham Young University (Bachelors in PE, MS in Exercise Science and MBA)