UCLA Spotlight


Al Scates, Volleyball Coach

  • By Rich Bertolucci
  • Published Feb 1, 2001 8:00 AM

Saved by a legendary coach 37 years ago, Al Scates (UCLA '61) became a legend in the decades that followed.

Scates, remorseful after allowing one of John Wooden's basketball players to compete in a volleyball match, wrote his resignation and gave it to athletic director J.D. Morgan in 1964.

Wooden told Morgan to rip it up. Scates kept his job and built a dynasty.

Nearly 40 years later, Wooden wrote Scates a note that is now on a wall plaque in his office. "To Al Scates, a great coach and a great man."

Few people, let alone coaches, would command such praise from one of America's coaching icons.

Some of the players he has coached include three-time Olympic gold medalist Karch Kiraly, voted the Male Volleyball Player of the Century and Sinjin Smith, the King of the Beach in the 1980s. UCLA Hall of Famers Larry Rundle, Ernie Suwara, Doug Partie, Ricci Luyties, Steve Salmons and Kirk Kilgour also were coached by Scates. Scates runs a cutthroat program. Players must prove their mettle every day in practice. Smith, a three-time All-American from 1976-79, earned a spot with the top six as a freshman after weeks of hard work.

"I thought I could relax once I made it to the first string," he remembered. "But Al dropped me down to the second team immediately.

"I never lost my spot again," he recalled.

"No matter how great you are in high school, once you get here (UCLA) you're nobody," All-American Tom Stillwell said a few years ago. "They (the players) don't care who you are because they're trying to out-play you every day in practice."

This season Scates won his 1,000th career match as coach of the UCLA men's volleyball team. He has guided the Bruins to 20 national championships and 23 conference championships. In his five decades of coaching, he has tutored 74 USVBA and NCAA All-Americans, 37 U.S. National Team players, 21 Olympians and seven Players of the Year.

In 2006, Scates guided the Men's Volleyball Team to their 19th title. - (Updated 1/07)