John Dunning has been both busy and successful during his collegiate women's volleyball coaching career, which spans 26 seasons -- the past 11 as the Stanford head coach.
Dunning has been in the spotlight since he began his coaching career at University of the Pacific. Since then, he has collected four national titles, tying former Stanford coach Don Shaw for the second-most in NCAA history, and coached in more Division I national title matches (nine) than any other coach.
Dunning has taken every college team he has coached to the NCAA Tournament and led a remarkable 88 percent of them to a Round-of-16 appearance. He ranks among the top five coaches all-time with a .825 career winning percentage, and among the top 10 active coaches with 748 career wins (748-159).
He has had 29 athletes earn 58 American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America honors, while mentoring four AVCA National Players of the Year.
Those are just a few of the reasons why Dunning will be inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame on Thursday in San Antonio, Texas. Dunning will be joined by former UCLA star Liz Masakayan and Gerald 'Gerry' Matacotta as the three inductees this year. The ceremony will be held in conjunction with the 2011 AVCA Annual Convention and NCAA Final Four.
GoStanford.com caught up with Dunning to reflect on his career.
GoStanford: What are your thoughts on being inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame?
Dunning: It's an honor. It means you have been coaching a long time, but it has given me a chance to reflect on my career which I am usually too busy to do. It makes you think about all of the wonderful people you've crossed paths with administrators, coaches, student-athletes. So it's an honor and has been neat to reflect on everything.
GoStanford: What are some of your most memorable coaching moments?
Dunning: "I had been a high school coach when I was hired at Pacific and I can remember my first day at the arena at UOP. I was just standing there thinking out amazing it was to be there. I remember hearing one of the two seniors on the team saying 'Big time coach we've got.' Those initial moments just stick because I had just been teaching an Algebra II class at Fremont High School and then in the next moment I was the head coach of one of the best programs in the country. Winning a national championship there in my first season with an amazing group of kids was special. There are a lot of memories. I still remember coming to Stanford and thinking, 'Wow, this place is really cool and I'm working here.' It was similar to the feelings I had on my first day at UOP, so I got to experience that twice. And then, winning a national championship in my first year again. How do you not shake your head and go 'Really?'"
GoStanford: Have you ever thought about what your life would be like had you not taken that first coaching job at Fremont High School?
Dunning: "No, because I can't picture it. I had never even seen volleyball before, so walking into a gym to coach a group of high school kids I know I was terrified the first day. It was a good thing I was a teacher already and knew how to do things with groups and I had a little experience coaching basketball. But, back then, even the freshmen knew more than I did and that kind of scares me now. I've always just taken life as it has come to me and I've been really lucky with the opportunities that I've had and I have no complaints."
GoStanford: You have been at Stanford now for 11 seasons, what is it about this place that is special?
Dunning: "In terms of what it is I enjoy, I think when you find yourself with people who are great you are able to enjoy yourself more. Whether that's been at Stanford or UOP, I've had that. At Stanford, I've had a chance to sit and talk with amazing coaches, work with some of the most respected administrators in the country and work daily with student-athletes who are amazingly qualified and motivated. It comes down to the people. A place is just a place, but the people at the place help make it what it is."
GoStanford: What is the most rewarding part about coaching to you?
Dunning: "I spend a lot of time in the office and on the road, but those moments are part of the job and things that I do. It is great to have conversations with the people I work with. I sat and talked to [head Stanford baseball coach Mark Marquess for an hour about different things that had to do with coaching. But, ultimately, the times that I look forward to the most are the times I spend in the gym. Working one-on-one with an athlete doing individuals and the times I get to watch them work so hard in the weight room is rewarding. Also, when we are in practice or in a match and we are discussing the things that have to do with the game of volleyball. Getting to be with the athletes in a group setting, it doesn't get much better than that."
With his accomplishments in club, high school and collegiate volleyball, Dunning is one of only two coaches to have captured national titles on three different levels.