Question: What do you recall about Karch Kiraly and John Hanley when they were high school teenager’s first coming down to East Beach to challenge the old guard?
Jon Lee: I played against Karch and Jon Hanley daily for several summers. They had the fire, the true love of the game, and would come down to East Beach after school or early on summer days and battle to beat Boomer Milliken or Don Shaw and me, the reigning authority at East Beach. They rarely did, though they had super solid setting and ball control … and games kept getting closer.
The calendar turned a few pages and suddenly, after his first year at UCLA, Karch was rising well over the net hitting the ball consistently 5 feet away from both of us. Our time on top ended abruptly. Hanley, a superb setter and digger, got stronger too and the future began to look darker for the veterans. Wisely, we partnered with them for some good finishes in the mid-seventies, and they went on to dominant roles in the volleyball pantheon.
I look back fondly to those years of dominating those skinny kids. We’d have the beach to ourselves for a couple of hours before the crowds would assemble. It was a rich competitive time, with other great AAA players playing daily as well: Skip Allen, Ralph Minc, Jon Roberts, Jeff Reddan and others — with only ambition and pride to drive us all.
Shaw made the semi-finals of the World Championship with Karch in ’78. And in ’79, Hanley and I got a AAA finish (4th, beating Stoklos/Marlowe and Chamales/A. Smith) with me at the World Championship. Karch got a 5th with me in the South Bay, but both he and Hanley were upward bound and were soon among the absolute elite, beating us often. But those foggy East Beach mornings from 9-11, grinding it out against each other, was a fantastic chapter in life for us all.