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Pepperdine built on strong foundation

Feb. 9, 2006

One of the most popular courses during Pepperdine University's fall term is "Foundations of Coaching" -- a class that is taught, fittingly, by Dr. Marv Dunphy.

"Marv is an excellent volleyball coach," said Hawai'i's Mike Wilton, whose team plays Pepperdine today in Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, Calif. "He's always been successful."

In 23 seasons at Pepperdine, Dunphy's volleyball teams have won four national times.

Since Dunphy returned to the school in October 2000 after a 17-month hiatus, the Waves have the best record in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (82-23, three league titles) and, more significantly, are more successful than UCLA.

Last month, Volleyball Magazine named Dunphy as one of the 20 most influential names in volleyball.

Dunphy, true to form, deflected the praise, saying, "We've been really lucky to have some good players and, in some cases, some of the best in college volleyball. That's the key. I don't think there's any magic here. The key is to have good volleyball players."

The thing is, Dunphy appears to have a problem-solving knack. Last year's Waves won the national championship with a 5-foot-11 outside attacker.

This year, the Waves are successful despite relying on a converted middle (John Parfitt) and two freshmen (libero J.D. Schleppenbach and opposite hitter Paul Carroll) as primary passers. The Waves are ranked No. 1 in this week's CSTV/AVCA national poll.

"We'll keep working at it," Dunphy said. "We're not as smooth as we need to be, and hopefully will be. ... The standard is in the gym. That's where we're struggling to meet, to me, the standards we need to meet to be a good team. That's where I feel: 'Are we doing things the right way?' That's where I feel we need to focus."

Dunphy has managed to find an easy balance between volleyball's competitiveness and his rustic home life.

His six-acre property in the Santa Monica Mountains is filled with avocado, orange, lime and apple trees.

"I'm kind of like a 5 a.m. guy," he said. "I like getting out on the property."

He claims the area's avocados are the "biggest and best in the world."

"I like to see them grow," he said. "They stay on the tree for a long time."

He said everything he grows he shares with neighbors, friends and family members.

Dunphy lives in a log house he helped build. The house is New England-styled, and the logs came from Northern California.

"We started from scratch," he said, noting the area "is fairly rural. There are deer and coyotes and raccoons and bobcats and rattlesnakes. I like it there. It's a break."

He added: "I guess volleyball and coaching are kind of my hobbies. I like to see the great coaches coach. I like to read whatever I can about the great coaches in other sports. That's something I enjoy."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.