LOS ANGELES (AP) — Beach volleyball legend Gene Selznick, a Hall of Fame player who introduced Wilt Chamberlain to the sport and went on to coach Olympians from Sinjin Smith to Misty May-Treanor, has died, one of his sons said Monday. He was 82.
Selznick died Sunday at Kindred Hospital in Los Angeles after a series of health issues culminating in pneumonia, Dane Selznick told The Associated Press.
“Volleyball has lost one of the most remarkable performers and personalities in our entire life,” USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said. “Gene Selznick’s entire life was lived through and about the sport of volleyball. It is hard to imagine anyone who will by the level of their skill and personality to have a greater influence on the sport he loved so much.”
Gene Selznick began his career as beach volleyball first began to organize on the Southern California coast in the years after World War II. He soon became one of the dominating figures in the sport.
He was captain of the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team from 1953-67, and in 1956 he became the first American to be selected All-World following the World Championships. When USA Volleyball selected its All-Era team for 1953-77, Selznick was the most valuable player.
On the beach, Selznick won 38 of the 63 tournaments he played in and earned the King of the Beach title from 1950-66.
He was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1988.
“In beach volleyball he was a pioneer,” Dane Selznick said in a telephone interview. “He kind of set the pace for a lot of what today’s players are enjoying — Olympic gold medals, lucrative paychecks. They’ve made a comfortable living. My dad never made any money on it. He’s kind of like the old timers of other sports.”
Selznick began playing at age 19 and he remained in the sport as a club coach as recently as a year and a half ago, his son said.
According to his Hall of Fame biography, Selznick introduced Chamberlain to volleyball when they went on a barnstorming tour together in the 1970s.
“Gene’s accomplishments are legendary and he was truly someone who became larger than life,” Beal said. “He was innovative, creative, stubborn, dogmatic, visionary and enormously influential. His mark on the sport will last for as long as most of us will know, and we have truly lost a significant portion of our history.”
U.S. Olympian Todd Rogers, who won a gold medal in Beijing and is preparing for the 2012 Games in London, said he learned about Selznick from books and saw him at tournaments.
“He was one of the legends and pioneers of beach volleyball,” Rogers told the AP. “His passing is a sad day for everyone who has been and is involved in the game of beach volleyball.”
In addition to Dane, Gene Selznick is also survived by two other sons, Bob and Jack.
AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this story.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.