Andy Banachowski would like to remind certain members of the Serra High athletic community that he was, indeed, something of a trendsetter. He played some basketball, and he was the first student-athlete to receive a letter in swimming.
Of course, Serra didn't have a swimming pool back then. Banachowski, a 1963 graduate, did his training at Peninsula Golf & Country Club. The area was radically different in his day, too. Nature still possessed most of the area between Serra and the country club.
These days, Banachowski is better known as a Hall of Fame women's volleyball coach at UCLA. He has more wins as a college volleyball coach — he's nearing 1,100 — than anyone with the exception of Bruins men's coach Al Scates, for whom he played when he attended UCLA. His record doesn't include his first three years at the helm of the program. He was still a student then, running the program under the auspices of the UCLA intramural sports office.
He was part time, in fact, for a good portion of his early career.
"He's a great coach," said Stanford assistant coach Denise Corlett, who played for Banachowski in the late 1970s. "He knows what he's doing at a great university, and he's kept up with changes in the game."
Banachowski, while he played for the Bruins, was asked to start a program for the women. He predates the Pac-10 by 20 years and was coaching for 15 years before the NCAA began sponsoring women's sports.
"I fell into a good thing," Banachowski said after a recent five-set loss at Stanford. "I've managed to stay there and have a career coaching volleyball."
The Bruins enter the NCAA Tournament with a 20-10 record, their 10th straight season with at least 20 wins. Banachowski has never had a losing season during his 42-year career.
The 14th-seeded Bruins (one of five Pac-10 teams seeded among the top 16) host LSU on Friday night.
"It's been a pleasure," Banachowski said. "UCLA is a great place to be, and I've always enjoyed the college atmosphere."
He returned to San Mateo for two years after graduating from UCLA, but he'd already morphed into a Southern Californian, a blossoming volleyball guru who would see and adapt to all the changes in the sport. The Pac-10 is his fourth conference (UCLA previously played in the Southern California Women's Association, West Coast Athletic Association and PacWest), and the NCAA his third national affiliation. He's won national titles in all three designations.
UCLA has won six national championships under Banachowski, the first in 1972 while affiliated with the Division of Girls' and Women's Sports.
In 1974 and 1975, UCLA combined to win 60 of 64 matches en route to back-to-back Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women titles.
Since 1981, when Banachowski became a full-time coach, the Bruins have appeared in 11 NCAA Final Fours, winning championships in 1984, 1990 and 1991 and earning runner-up finishes in 1981, 1983, 1992 and 1994.
"I was basically doing it for free on release time from my other duties," Banachowski said of his early years. "I was very happy to make the transition from recreation director to full-time coach."
He co-founded the American Volleyball Coaches Association and entered its Hall of Fame in 1997.
Banachowski, a two-time All-America setter as a player, also served as an assistant coach to the men's team between 1972-77, helping them win four national titles.
He was involved as a coach in seven national titles in his first 10 years — all while working on a part-time basis.
Since those days, he's coached at the international level, including stints with the U.S. national and Olympic teams, as well as serving as a role model for future coaches.
"He taught me a lot," Corlett said. "He helped nurture my coaching career. I stayed on as a graduate assistant and scouted for him until I came to Stanford in 1996."