Russ Rose started at Penn State in 1979 and has built a dynasty in the years since
NCAA • Lee Feinswog • 12/20/14
Penn State coach Russ Rose, left, talks to his team during a timeout in the NCAA women's volleyball tournament championship match against BYU in Oklahoma City, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Penn State swept BYU to win the program's 7th national title and sixth in the last eight years. Photo: Sue Ogrocki, AP
That first season, in 1979, Russ Rose made $14,000 as the Penn State women’s volleyball head coach.
“I just turned 25,” Rose recalled. “I was happy I got a job. I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't have an office. I didn't have a telephone, I didn't have anything. I had 16 or 18 classes to teach a year, no assistant coach. I thought I had a good deal.”
Penn State, as it turns out, had a good deal.
The 1979 Nittany Lions finished 32-9 and were not invited to the postseason, but Rose nonetheless got a raise.
A $400 raise.
“I was feeling good,” Rose said.
He’s feeling better now. Penn State plays BYU on Saturday night for the national title in the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship, and regardless of the outcome Rose has established himself as the greatest coach the women’s game has ever known.
Now, three weeks past his 61st birthday, Rose leads everyone with six NCAA crowns.
The next closest? Two have four national titles: John Dunning won two at Pacific and two more at Stanford, which got sent home by Penn State on Thursday in the semifinals, and his predecessor, Don Shaw, who won four at Stanford.
What’s more, Rose still teaches at Penn State.
“It’s an ethics and issues of athletic coaching, which I usually start with a disclaimer for the students,” Rose cracked.
These days Rose doesn’t have to disclaim anything. As he finishes his 36th year in Happy Valley, life is good. His four boys are grown, he makes way more than $14,400, and perennially has the team to beat in women’s college volleyball.
Penn State finally broke through and won it all in 1999.
Then the Nittany Lions put together the best run ever, winning four in a row from 2007-10.
In 2012 Rose’s team caught a bad break when setter Micha Hancock tore up her ankle in the national semifinal in Louisville. Without Hancock being herself, Oregon moved on to the championship match, losing to Texas.
Then last year, led by Hancock, Penn State won it all again.
There are competitive, driven people in sports. Few could match the intensity point-in and point-out that Hancock generates. Conversely, it’s hard to imagine a coach with higher standards and more pointed sarcasm than Rose.
Love-hate between Hancock—on Friday named the AVCA National Player of the Year—and Rose would be an understatement at times in those first two and half years.
When she made her visit to Penn State, Hancock recalled Rose telling her, “It’s going to be a challenge. You’re probably going to hate me for your career here, but I’m going to make you a really good player.”
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