Oct. 11, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Don Shaw spent 16 years as the Stanford women's volleyball head coach from 1984-1999, during which he led the Cardinal to unparalleled success. Shaw guided the women to four NCAA Championships (1992, 1994, 1996, 1997) and 10 conference titles, including six Pac-10 crowns in a row between 1994 and 1999.
Shaw compiled a career winning percentage of .863 (440-70), which still ranks as the best in Division I history, and coached 15 players to 35 AVCA All-America awards. In NCAA Tournament action, he tallied a record of 50-12, taking Stanford to 12 Final Fours and eight NCAA championship matches in 16 seasons. He was named AVCA National Coach of the Year in 1991 and the Volleyball Magazine National Coach of the Year in 1997.
He began his coaching career at Stanford in 1980 as an assistant to the women's program, then was named co-head coach of both the men's and women's teams with Fred Sturm in 1984. After two seasons as co-head coach of both programs, Shaw took sole control of the women's program in 1986. He guided the Cardinal through 14 more successful seasons until retiring from the women's program in 1999. In 2001, he accepted the head coaching position with the Stanford men's program. In six seasons as head men's coach, Shaw collected a 90-79 (.533) record. In December 2008, he was
inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame.
GoStanford.com recently caught up with Don to get his thoughts on his selection to Stanford's Athletic Hall of Fame, his favorite memories from his years coaching on The Farm and more.
What are your thoughts about being selected to Stanford's Athletic Hall of Fame?
I'm extremely honored, proud of being recognized for my efforts and thankful to the many people who helped me during my career at Stanford.
What does Stanford mean to you?
What was it like being the co-head coach of both the men's and women's programs at the same time?
The ultimate combination of athletics and academics, where success is achieved on both sides without compromising the other. Also, I've been associated with Stanford now for over half of my life, so it will always be a large part of me.
It was an experience that would be hard to imagine doing nowadays. Counting my four years as Fred Sturm's assistant prior to being elevated to co-head coach, combined with the fact that there were no NCAA restrictions on practice time allowed, imagine September through June double-days for six years!
How did it feel to win your first NCAA National Championship in 1992?
After coming so close in six previous trips to the semifinals, it was like having a 900 pound gorilla being removed from your back. Everything fell into place at the right time. It was nirvana for a coach.
You are being inducted into the Hall of Fame with your former player, Kerri Walsh. What was it like coaching her at Stanford?
With any elite-level athlete, there are going to be ups and downs, but obviously the talent to be great was there. Once we understood each other's goals and desire to win were similar, she was a pleasure to coach and I'm proud to have played a part in her career.
As a player, you were known as "Big Daddy." How did you get that nickname, and do people still call you that?
I got it from Jon Lee, my roommate and beach partner, during my beach and indoor playing days in Santa Barbara. Most people who know me from those days and my earlier years of coaching at Stanford (`70s and `80s) still call me that.
You must have played volleyball with Wilt Chamberlain. How good of a volleyball player was he?
Wilt really enjoyed volleyball and was good when surrounded with good teammates. He was a great guy who loved escaping from his life as a world-famous athlete and celebrity and being treated as "just one of the guys" by his volleyball friends.
You once played a beach tournament with a young Karch Kiraly. How did that pairing come about and how did it end?
Karch was a 17 year-old up-and-coming high school star at Santa Barbara High. His dad had been bringing him down to the beach where we all played for a few years (I had actually won a local draw tournament with him when he was 15). I had been having a pretty solid year in '78 with a number of top-four finishes, but my regular partner was going to be out of the country during the Cuervo World Championships, so I asked Karch to play. We were playing great and blowing through the field until, in the winner's bracket finals after two days in the heat, I started to get severe leg cramps. We tried to continue with Karch covering almost the whole court, but couldn't pull it off and ended up finishing third. That winter, I was offered an opportunity to join the USA National team preparing for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. That was pretty much the end of my beach career while Karch joined up with Sinjin Smith the following summer. He's done alright, I guess.
As a young Stanford coach, what knowledge did you gain from the likes of Fred Sturm and Al Roderigues?
Fred hired me. He was two years younger than I was so we were both "young Stanford coaches". We spent almost every day for six years putting both programs together one step at a time. I'll always be indebted to Fred for the opportunity to coach at Stanford and, if I had to narrow down what I learned from him, it would be his attention to detail and the way he analyzed the game of volleyball. As for Big Al, I originally hired him to work my volleyball camp. Then, immediately after watching him in action, put him on a lifetime contract due to his enthusiasm for coaching and his infectious personality. As a person I aspire to be more like him, but I could never come close... there will never be another Big Al.
In trying to build the Stanford program, when did you feel you finally turned a corner?
When we were able to recruit Kim Oden. Until then, we were a scrappy, competitive team, but couldn't convince top recruits that we were legit. Kim put us on the map.
What have you learned over the years about building a championship volleyball team?
You have to have the support of your administration, loyal staff and talented players. You must have a plan for the season and one for each day that everyone believes in... and then you better have a back-up plan. Communication and trust within the program are a must. Never hurts to have some good luck as well.
You certainly had great success at Stanford, but one of the dark moments must have been learning about the accident involving one of your men's recruits, Joe Kay. How did your experience with Joe affect you as a coach and a man?
Learning that Joe had been injured was certainly a dark moment. However, from the very next day, it was uplifting to see how everyone involved, from Joe's family to Ted Leland and the entire Stanford community, mobilized to help Joe get through it. How he eventually attended, contributed to the campus community and graduated from Stanford affected me very positively.
Where is home for you now, and how often do you come back to Stanford for athletic events?
I live in Mountain View, so I'm not too far away from campus. I'm still teaching activities classes part-time so I'm on campus a couple of days a week. I attend as many athletic events as I can.
What is it like watching your daughter, Jordan, play for Saint Mary's and seeing your son, James, play in high school?
It's a lot of fun and I'm very proud of them both. They're both outstanding players and good teammates. It's great that Jordan found a program that fits her and that she's still relatively close to home so I can watch her play often. James is involved with the USA program (having just attended the World Championships in Argentina as a member of the Youth National Team), which is exciting.
Editor's Note: The rich and proud tradition of Stanford Athletics will come alive on Friday night, November 11 as Stanford formally inducts nine new members into the University's Athletic Hall of Fame. The list of inductees includes Don Griffin (men's basketball), Mhairi McKay (women's golf), Jay Mortenson (men's swimming), Alex Kim (men's tennis), Don Shaw (volleyball), Stan Spencer (baseball), Trisha Stevens (women's basketball), Kerri Walsh (women's volleyball), Bob Whitfield (football).