Dunning announces he's retiring from coaching women's volleyball

From CCS titles to NCAA championships, the former math teacher leaves behind a glorious legacy

Before he became a Hall of Fame college volleyball coach, John Dunning, 66, was a high school math teacher at Fremont-Sunnyvale.

Before he won his first national title at Pacific, he was winning Central Coast Section titles at Fremont.

He earned his collegiate reputation at Pacific, but coaching at Stanford meant coming home.

Dunning came to Stanford when it needed a spark. Don Shaw, who led the Cardinal to its first national title in 1992 and then won three more, took a leave of absence following the 1999 season.

Denise Corlett, one of the greatest assistant coaches of all time, took over the program on an interim basis.

She didn't have All-American Logan Tom around when the season started. Tom was at the 2000 Olympics.

Corlett did well enough to continue Stanford's record of success in the NCAA though. And Tom returned for the Pac-10 season.

By her own admission, Corlett wasn't cut out to be a head coach. She didn't need the extra headaches.

Shaw returned to campus but as the men's volleyball coach.

Enter John Dunning, whose first act was to retain Corlett as top assistant and eventually associate head coach.

Dunning, a 32-year veteran of the women's volleyball coaching ranks and five-time national champion head coach, announced his retirement Monday.

The next coach may want to speak with Corlett about her future. She is, after all, a symbol of continuity.

"I am a very lucky person. I have had the joy of coaching in a sport I love for decades, but have decided that it is time to retire," said Dunning, who in December led Stanford to its record-tying seventh NCAA title with a 3-1 victory over Texas. "I have had the wonderful opportunity to coach so many great student-athletes, and work with amazing people in amazing programs at great universities. I am grateful for all the support I have received and hope in the coming weeks to be able to reach out and thank people for all that they have done for me."

Dunning directed Stanford to three national championships (2001, 2004, 2016) and eight conference titles during his 16-year tenure on The Farm. He boasts five national titles overall (1985 and 1986 at Pacific) – which ranks as the second-most in NCAA Division I history He was inducted into the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Hall of Fame in 2011.

In 32 seasons as a head coach, Dunning's teams never missed the postseason. He led 12 teams to the Final Four, including eight of his 16 Stanford squads. Dunning joins current Penn State head coach Russ Rose as the only coaches in the history of the sport to guide 10 teams to the national championship match. Dunning finishes his career with an 888-185 overall record (.828).

"I want to thank Coach Dunning for all he has done to keep our women's volleyball program among the nation's elite during his 16 seasons at Stanford," said Jaquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics Bernard Muir. "John is regarded as one of the best in his field by his peers, and he will be truly missed as a leader within our Stanford athletic community. On and off the court, John's tireless dedication and passion for mentoring our student-athletes have proved instrumental in sustaining the success of our program. I want to wish him and his family well in retirement."

Dunning is a four-time national coach of the year, three-time regional coach of the year and seven-time conference coach of the year. He holds a 91-27 mark in NCAA Tournament play, winning 77.1 percent of his postseason matches. Throughout his illustrious career, Dunning has coached 38 All-Americans to 77 total honors, and produced seven national players of the year.

Dunning holds a 451-83 mark at Stanford, the most wins in program history. While on The Farm, he also mentored three Olympians in Logan Tom (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012), Ogonna Nnamani (2004, 2008) and Foluke Akinradewo (2012, 2016), and has produced numerous U.S. National Team selections.

Prior to coming to Stanford, Dunning spent 16 seasons as the head coach at Pacific. During his tenure in Stockton, he compiled an impressive 437-102 (.811) record, was named Big West Coach of the Year four times and led the Tigers to two NCAA championships, an NCAA runner-up finish, five Big West Conference titles and 16 consecutive NCAA Tournament bids. In 2007, Dunning was inducted into the University of the Pacific Hall of Fame.

Dunning stepped onto the Pacific campus in 1985 and guided the team to a national title in his first year as a collegiate head coach. In 1986, he helped the Tigers repeat their landmark feat.

Dunning's pair of titles with the volleyball program remain the only two national championships in any sport in Pacific's history. After capturing an NCAA title with Stanford in his first season (2001), Dunning remains the only coach in the history of the sport to win a national championship in his first year at two different schools.

Stanford will immediately begin a national search for his replacement. One of the top candidates may already be on campus.

Four-time all-American Cassidy Lichtman was on Dunning's staff this year.

A quick learner, a hard worker and a fierce competitor who has played every spot on the court, Lichtman has all the attributes of becoming a Division I coach.

She may not have a lengthy coaching resume but she understands every step it takes to reach the top and she's a great communicator.

Dunning may have felt the end was close when he brought Lichtman onto the staff. Whether it was deliberate or not, Dunning put Lichtman into a favorable position.

There's no doubt she would get his highest recommendation. After all, he knew enough to keep Corlett.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics


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