|Born in Texas, Mike moved to
California when he was just a kid. He grew up near the beach
and went to Santa Monica High School. In tenth grade he was
all of 4 feet, 10 inches tall. Over the next 18 months he grew
17 inches. By the time he got to college, he was 6-feet-4. He
started at Santa Monica City College, then transferred to UCLA
where, naturally enough, he was interested in basketball. The
relatively new coach at UCLA happened to be a gentleman named
John Wooden. Mr. Wooden was intrigued in a specimen who stood
6-4. But not interested enough because the young man had only
two years of eligibility remaining. So Mike took up volleyball.
ďIt was like being in the desert all my life and suddenly I
found a magic waterfall,Ē he says now of not only how good he
got but how much he loved the game.
In 1953, Mike and the rest of his Delta Tau Delta fraternity
intramural championship volleyball team talked the UCLA athletic
director, Wilbur Johns, into letting them represent the university
at the national collegiate volleyball championships ó which
the boys had to get to in Omaha, Neb., all by themselves. They
roped the championship trophy to the roof of their car to get
it back to Westwood. Johns thereupon made menís volleyball a
varsity sport. The next year the Bruins road-tripped it to Tucson.
Again, they came back with the national championship trophy.
In 1959, Mike played on the gold medal-winning U.S. national
team at the Pan American Game. He played at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics,
on the American team at volleyballís first appearance at the
Summer Games. Outdoors, at the beach, he teamed with Mike Bright
to dominate at Manhattan Beach ó showing the kind of versatility
that Karch Kiraly would show a generation later. Mike helped
organize the 1984 Olympics in L.A.
He helped develop the American Basketball Assn, ó he can regale
you with hugely entertaining tales about the Kentucky Colonels
of the ABA ó as well as the World Hockey Assn. and professional
track. The rally scoring system thatís now an essential feature
of volleyball worldwide? That was Mikeís idea. Oh, thereís more.
Of course there is. Mike has deservedly been made a member of
various volleyball halls of fame. Mike has done extensive on-camera
And he worked closely for years with Art Linkletter, helping
the TV personality with various business ventures. The two became
not just professional colleagues ó they were close friends before
Artís death, at age 97, last May. At a lunch celebrating Artís
96th birthday, Mike was telling Art how something Art had once
said to him had changed his life. What, Art said, was that?
Well, Mike said, you told me, find something you like to do
ó because then you really never work another day in your life.
Art paused. He said, Iíve thought about that. Thereís more to
it. Mike said, what do you mean? My new philosophy, Art said,
is this: Whatís important in life is not how many breaths you
take. Itís how many times life makes you breathless. Alan