Players, coaches, friends pay tribute to retiring Gregory

Kathy Gregory is the only Women's Head Volleyball Coach UCSB has ever seen

Kathy Gregory is the only Women’s Head Volleyball Coach UCSB has ever seen in 38 years. (UCSB Photos)

Retired UCSB men?s volleyball coach Ken Preston couldn?t have described Kathy Gregory any better.

?They threw away the mould when they made Kathy,? said Preston about the legendary Gregory who, after 38 years of running the UCSB women?s volleyball program, is retiring. ?The Mike Maases, John Roberts, the Larry Millikens, those kind of volleyball people aren?t produced anymore. They lived and breathed volleyball.

?Kathy is a very unique person, she has her ways and her philosophies, and she has her ways of communicating. They threw away the mould after they made Kathy.?

Presidio Sports reached out to some of Gregory?s former players, coaching colleagues and friends and asked for their comments on the volleyball legend known as ?The Queen.?

Preston, who retired in 2008 after a 30-year coaching career at UCSB, shared an office with Gregory in Rob Gym during his first eight years on the job and he coached volleyball camps with her for more than 20 years.

?I was around her a lot,? he said.

Preston said her style of coaching was tough on players. ?Those who ended up playing four years or two years as a transfer student were very tough-skinned individuals,? he said. ?She would bring out the best in some players. She had a unique style that?s based on heart, dedication and desire.?

The following are more reactions from Gregory’s former players:

Brooke Hanson (UCSB career: 1999-2002): She IS Santa Barbara volleyball, and the school is going to miss her! Playing for Kathy was the best four years of my life! Our teams went to the Elite 8 twice and the Sweet 16 once. Every day she seemed to find new ways to push us to the limit and let us see what we were made of. Whether it was 6 a.m. mile runs or stadium workouts, or practices so hard that most of us had to change our sweaty shirts more then once, Kathy gets the best out of her teams.

I learned so much about myself, my teammates and my coaches during those years. It wasn’t about the wins (we had a lot while I was there) but about the connection Kathy made with each player and the lifelong friendships I made with my teammates while our coach pushed us to our limits each day.

Kathy has meant so much to me over the years! She went from my coach to my mentor, to now one of my close friends that I can call at any time to get advice. No matter what is going on in her life she always makes time for me. I currently play on the FIVB beach tour and the domestic beach volleyball tours, and Kathy still provides me with coaching tips and advice. She doesn’t stop at teaching her players volleyball. I learned so many valuable life lessons while at UCSB and it really has made me the person that I am today!

Kathy is a legend in our sport and I’m so grateful that I was able to play for her and sad that no one else can experience what I did at Santa Barbara.

Kathy retiring is the end of an era but I’m excited to see where she goes next and now maybe she’ll have more time to come out to the beach and help me out.

Gregory was on the sidelines for 882 victories with the Gauchos, the fifth-most wins in NCAA history.

Gregory was on the sidelines for 882 victories with the Gauchos, the fifth-most wins in NCAA history.

BRIE LAMPE (1998-2001): Kathy took a chance on me when not many others would. ?In the same conversation that I verbally committed to Kathy and UCSB’s program, I also disclosed to her that I have cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disease affecting the pulmonary and digestive systems. Although my case is more on the mild side, you would still expect any coach to retract the scholarship offer at that point. Not Kathy. Secondly, I?was not what you would call a “refined” volleyball player. I lacked fundamental skills that all of the other UCSB recruits had already developed. ?But Kathy saw something in me and she stuck with me until the end of my career.

I came from a very sheltered home and Kathy took the time to build a relationship with my parents. This was very reassuring to my family that I was in good hands at UCSB. ?While running a volleyball program, Kathy made time to call my parents when successes were had, or when I slipped up, and even to inform them of when I had my first boyfriend. ?Kathy was involved in every aspect of my life.

In the four years I played for KG, she broke me down but then built me back up into a person I didn’t know I could be. ?She was relentless and always pushed you to reach the potential that you never knew you had inside. Kathy continued to have faith in me even when I had none in myself.She helped me gain confidence and strength. ?Kathy taught me to have passion in life. ?She taught me to set goals and that with hard work anything is possible, no matter your situation.

It probably sounds funny saying that the coach who pushed me until I thought I’d break, is also the one who I attribute my life’s happiness to. Kathy paved the way for me to have the happy life which I now live. ?She gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. ?She made it possible for me to get an amazing education, make athletic achievements, meet the man of my dreams.

She was at my wedding, and my husband, Mark Hull (former UCSB basketball player), and I have a special place in our hearts for this woman. She made it possible for our paths to cross and for that we are forever grateful. I have caught myself thinking over the last few years how Kathy is the person who made my happily ever after possible. ?To Kathy Gregory, I owe everything.

ERICA MENZEL (2000-2003): I have a unique perspective as a result of playing for her and also as a result of being born and raised in Santa Barbara. I first began to learn of the legend that is Kathy Gregory when I began playing club volleyball in Santa Barbara. Many of my coaches I had growing up in the Santa Barbara Club, including Larry “Boomer” Milliken, were able to watch and play against Kathy and they often described to me how amazing a player Kathy was.

I began to appreciate right away what a pioneer for women’s volleyball she was and what an accomplished player she was. I realized Kathy Gregory was the gold standard first as a player and as local legend at a very young age. Being raised in Santa Barbara I was able to attend many of the UCSB women’s volleyball team’s games with my family and club teams and I began to be mesmerized by watching Kathy stalk the sidelines as the coach of the Gauchos. Her intensity and her competitiveness was unmatched and her players played hard for her every match.

Kathy has a love and energy and enthusiasm for teaching volleyball that is second to none. When I decided to attend UCSB and go play for Kathy, I knew that every day would be a challenge and that Kathy would expect all of her players to leave it all on the court each day. Kathy inspired you to dig deep and push harder than even you thought you could. While there were times you would be angry with her, you knew she was right and she was testing your mental fortitude.

I appreciate now what she was doing by pushing me and the lessons she was teaching me about life and volleyball on a daily basis. Now that I am a coach at San Marcos I use a lot of bits and pieces I learned from Kathy to drive, motivate and teach my players.

I am a much better person and coach because I played for Kathy and I am forever indebted to her for the lessons she taught me at UCSB. I still talk to Kathy on a regular basis and she is a friend and mentor to me to this day. I am sad to see her leave UCSB and I thought this day would never come. I can tell you this right now, I will be asking her to help me build the program at San Marcos as soon as she moves on from UCSB!

HEATHER COLLINS (1991-94): There is no doubt that Kathy Gregory is a demanding coach. Luckily for me, I had the good fortune of learning from one of the best, who pushed her players to be present and accounted for every single time they stepped on the court.

She expected her players to do three things; compete, work hard and communicate. Pretty simple expectations for college student-athletes, especially those on scholarship, getting paid to do something they love. What too many players don’t understand is that Kathy was also preparing them for their adult life, beyond volleyball. Her continuous friendship and guidance outside of college volleyball has helped me through the good and the bad: a divorce, losing my job after 13 years, finding love again and getting married, and adjusting to a new coaching job that has turned out to be the perfect place for me, come full circle to becoming a mother last week.

As I write this, I am taking care of my one-week old baby girl, and I recollect on how (Kathy) talked me through all of these milestones in my life and helped me to be thankful for what I had at the time and look at the positive side of things. I cannot thank her enough for pushing me to my limits and expecting the best out of me. I take many lessons I have learned from her and apply them in my own coaching philosophy. It becomes difficult when my players do not understand the tough love. I just need to have faith that some day they will appreciate the life lessons I am trying to instill in them, for their well being as a player and as a person, as Kathy did for me!

(Heather Collins is the head women?s volleyball coach at Occidental College).

MIKE MAAS (Former UCSB men?s player, club coach, longtime friend): I coached with her the first year she got here and I have known pretty much the makeup of every player who has player for her, and 95 percent of the players who played for her have overachieved, have done things they are surprised they did. In the final analysis, they became better people, better players. That?s what Kathy really does. She sends her kids off with the taste of the real world. And, the real world is not a slap on the back and good job when it?s not earned.

There are people that come to the school and it?s not their taste. That?s not a negative on Kathy. Parents and athletes who come here, they both know, they both know the stories, they have the information. And yet they still come.

It?s like those people that buy a big beautiful house on the Florida coast. They move there and they?re surprised when five hurricanes beat the crap out of them. Are you kidding me? What do you expect.

I love her.

NINA MATTHIES (Pepperdine women?s coach) : She is very happy with her decision and I wish her the best!

She has been a great leader and proponent for women’s sports and a wonderful and very colorful voice for women’s volleyball, both indoor and beach. Having been friends and colleagues for the past 40-plus years, I actually am very jealous that she is going to be able to retire and start a new phase in her life!

My family and I want to say: WAY TO GO!!

Love ya.