Legendary Olympic gold medalist, collegiate All-American and pro beach star Pat Powers returned in 1997 to his alma mater — which he led to the 1980 NCAA championship as a player — to become the USC men’s volleyball head coach and to help bring the Trojans back to national prominence.
He has steadily accomplished that in his 5 years at Troy's helm, twice bringing the Trojans within a victory of the NCAA Final Four.
In his 1997 debut, Powers put USC back on track, going 18-14 for its first winning season since 1994. In one memorable week, Troy upset No. 1 Stanford, No. 2 BYU and No. 11 Pacific.
His second season saw the Trojans go 17-17 overall. USC missed the MPSF Tournament by just one win.
In 1999, his third season, Powers got his team within one victory of the NCAA Final Four. His senior-less squad, which started off ranked No. 11, went 24-12 overall, finished seventh nationally and advanced to the finals of the MPSF tourney, where it lost to top-ranked BYU in 4 games in Provo. Despite the loss (and, with it, an automatic berth to the NCAAs), USC finished 1999 on an upswing by knocking some gorillas off its back: closing the regular season with a win at No. 7 Hawaii (snapping a 9-match losing streak to the Rainbows and beating them in Honolulu for the first time since 1991), then winning at No. 4 Pepperdine in the MPSF tourney's first round (ending an 11-match losing skid to the Waves and posting Troy's first win in Malibu since 1991), then beating No. 2 Long Beach State in the MPSF semifinals (breaking a 7-match losing streak to the 49ers).
In his fourth season, 2000, Powers was again a win shy of the NCAA Final Four (a loss in the MPSF tourney semifinals to Pepperdine kept USC home). His Trojans shared the MPSF Pacific Division title at 16-3--their first since 1991--and went 26-6 overall with a No. 4 final national ranking. USC was 14-0 at home, its first unblemished home season since 1991 and its most home wins ever. For 2 weeks near the end of the season, Troy was ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll (another first since 1991). Twice, USC beat No. 1-ranked teams: a dramatic 5-game win at eventual NCAA champ UCLA (which not only broke a 13-match losing streak to its crosstown rival, but was USC’s first regulation-match win over the Bruins since 1991, its first victory in Pauley Pavilion since 1990 and its first win in the Kilgour Cup after 7 losses) and a 4-game home victory over Long Beach State to end the regular season.
In 2001, his fifth season, USC went 13-9 overall (No. 10 final ranking) and qualified for the MPSF tourney with a third place finish at 10-7. In the process, Powers notched his 100th career win.
In August of 1997, Powers was an assistant coach with the U.S. National Team during its tour of France. In the summer of 2000, he was third at the USA National Master's Beach Championships (with Doug White).
The 6-foot-5 Powers, 43, is regarded as one of the greatest players in international volleyball history, both in the six-man indoor game and the two-man beach game.
He was a member of the U.S. National Team for nine years (1978-86), starting at opposite hitter on a squad that won America’s first-ever volleyball “Triple Crown”: the 1984 Olympics, the 1985 World Cup and the 1986 World Championships.
He spent 15 years (1982-96) playing on the Association of Volleyball Professionals beach tour, winning 13 tourneys and more than $500,000 to rank in the career Top 30 in both categories. He was voted the AVP’s Best Blocker and Best Spiker in 1988 and ranked third on the money list in 1992. He won the 1988 World Beach Championships, making him one of just three players to win an indoor and outdoor world championship. He also served on the AVP Board of Directors for five years (1992-96).
Prior to his first season as head coach at USC, Powers had coached the sport at various levels. He was an assistant men’s coach at USC in 1981, helping the Trojans to an NCAA second-place finish. He was an assistant coach and player on several European first division professional club teams, including Team Bistefani in Italy for two seasons (1987-88) and Mladost Zagreb in Yugoslavia for one year (1991). He also coached a Yugoslavian junior team preparing for the European Championships during his time in that country. In 1993, he was the head girls’ coach at University High in San Diego and guided the team to the CIF finals. In 1996, he conducted the Pat Powers Professional Volleyball Clinics, a 33-stop tour through the United States.
Powers also has a business background. While training for the Olympics, he spent five years (1982-86) as a management trainee at a San Diego-area bank as part of the Olympic Jobs Program.
A highly-regarded motivational speaker whose articles have been published in national publications, he also is regarded as volleyball’s “social commentator.” Volleyball Monthly once described Powers as “volleyball’s Plato, a philosopher and analyst of the human condition who just might be the most powerful outside hitter to ever play the game.”
Powers, who prepped at Santa Monica (Calif.) High, transferred to USC after helping Santa Monica College win the 1977 state J.C. title. He lettered three years at Troy (1978-80) as the Trojans won the 1980 NCAA title and were runners-up in 1979. He was a two-time All-American first teamer and NCAA All-Tournament team member (1979-80). He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from USC in 1981.
Among his other volleyball achievements are being an eight-time USVBA All-American (winning MVP honors in 1979 and 1986) while playing on five USVBA club champions, playing on the 1978 U.S. Junior National Team at the Pac-Rim Championships, participating in the 1979 Pan-American Games, winning the 1983 Norceca Championship and playing professionally in France (1989). He was named to Volleyball magazine's All-Century first team and its All-Time Indoor first team.
Born Feb. 13, 1958, he and his wife, Sheri, have 2 daughters, Alynne, 6, and Kelly, 2.
YEAR-BY-YEAR WITH PAT POWERS