In his backyard atop the hills in San Clemente, Calif., the Pacific Ocean looking on like a nosy neighbor, Karch Kiraly speaks of the sport he loves most.
It’s not indoor volleyball, though Kiraly, who led the United States to gold medals in the 1984 and ‘88 Olympics, is considered one of the best to have played that game.
No, Kiraly’s passion is the other volleyball - a simpler variation with two to a side battling it out in the sand; a game that for Kiraly harkens back to a simpler time, when he and his father teamed up in amateur competitions.
“We did well. We won some tournaments - not many of them,” said Kiraly, 35, a kid no more.
Kiraly, whose name means “king” in Hungarian, rules the U.S. men’s pro beach tour.
Nothing but winning has been good enough for the man described by coaches, teammates and friends as the most focused and tenacious competitor they’ve run across.
That was true as a teenager growing up in Santa Barbara, racing friends to the beach in the morning to see who could accumulate the most wins by nightfall.
It was true in college. “He’s the best player I’ve ever coached. But one thing about Karch - he is not a good loser,” said UCLA coach Al Scates.