SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A legendary career will come to an end as Kathy Gregory, UC Santa Barbara's only women's volleyball head coach ever, will retire after 38 seasons, she announced Monday.
Gregory retires as one of the greatest coaches in college volleyball history. Over her 38-year career, she amassed 882 wins, the fifth most in NCAA Division I history, and a winning percentage of .681, the highest all-time among UCSB coaches of any sport. Her Gaucho program advanced to 27 NCAA Tournaments and was one of four – joining Stanford, Nebraska and Penn State - to advance to each of the first 26 tourneys.
"There comes a time in every coaches career when the torch of leadership must be passed, and I'm pleased to announce my retirement," Gregory said. "The inspiration that the Gaucho teams have given me over the past years has made this a very heartfelt decision as I continue to enjoy inspiring them to grow and develop as athletes, as people and, most importantly, as leaders. Over the past 38 years I have been blessed with the opportunity to impact so many young women, each of whom taught me something in return and helped build a legacy at Santa Barbara that will continue into the future."
Gregory, who began her coaching career in 1975, guided UCSB to three NCAA Elite Eight appearances (1997, 1999 and 2000) and two other Sweet 16s (1998 and 2002). She was named AVCA National Coach of the Year in 1993, the year her team began ranked No. 17 in the national polls and finished No. 4 with a record of 28-4.
In addition to her 1993 national honor, Gregory was a four-time AVCA West Region Coach of the Year and a seven-time Big West Conference Coach of the Year. In 2002, the Gauchos set a school record with a 23-match winning streak, went 18-0 in league play and finished with a 30-3 overall record, the best in school history.
From 2003-05, Gregory's teams won three consecutive Big West titles – the longest run in school history – and she was named Coach of the Year following each season. During a six-year span (2002-07) UCSB recorded a sparkling 68-14 (.829) record in Big West play.
"I can't begin to express our gratitude for Kathy's 38 years of service and leadership to so many Gaucho women and to our campus," said UCSB Athletics Director Mark Massari. "Today we are known nationally as a special place for women's volleyball because of Kathy. She is a legend in the sport of volleyball, but its more than that. Today generations of Gauchos are confident and strong women and leaders in business, their families and communities because they played for Kathy. She has made this entire campus proud."
While Gregory's teams have found great success, so too have numerous individual players. UCSB teams have produced 91 All-Big West selections, including 64 first teamers, and a conference-record 28 All-Freshman Team choices. In addition, four Gauchos have been named Big West Player of the Year and seven have earned Big West Freshman of the Year honors, including Taylor Formico in 2012. On a national level, 13 UCSB players have earned All-American honors.
Gregory's success in volleyball has not only on the sidelines, but inside the lines. She is considered one of the true pioneers of the beach volleyball game and was named Women's Beach Tournament Player of the Year in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1983. In 1996 she became the senior-most player in the nation to earn her AAA Beach rating, the highest mark a player can attain on the sand. Gregory was named a USVBA All-American for the 16th time at the National Championships in Dallas in 1996.
Her competitive career was not limited to the sand as she served as captain of the professional San Diego Breakers of the Indoor Volleyball Association – where she was a teammate of basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain – and played on the 1968 U.S. Pan American and World Game squads. On Oct. 21, 1989, Gregory became the third woman – joining U.S. Olympians Flo Hyman and Jane Ward – to be enshrined into the Volleyball Hall of Fame. In 1997 she became the 12th woman inducted into the United States Volleyball Association Hall of Fame. In 2003, she was named to the USVBA's All-Era Team from 1949-1979.
Aside from what she has given to the sport of volleyball, Gregory has been recognized for her contributions to the advancement of women's athletics. In 1981 she was given the Salute to Women Award for her devotion to women's growth in sports. Gregory was also recently named as one of only five coaches nominated for the Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame, an organization that honors outstanding contributions to women's athletics.
There will be a national search for the next UCSB head women's volleyball coach and Gregory will be a part of a three-person committee that will also include Massari and Deputy Athletics Director Diane O'Brien, will spearhead the effort.
In addition, Gregory will also assist in the department's evaluation of the possibility of adding sand volleyball as an intercollegiate sport. The NCAA recently added sand volleyball as an emerging sport. Long Beach State, Pepperdine and several other west coast schools have already launched programs.