Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Wednesday, August 14, 1996

A dream team made
for volleyball fans in Hawaii

TALK about a Dream Team.

Yuval Katz at opposite. Stein Metzger at setter. Kevin Wong, Allen Allen and Mike Lambert as hitters. Paul Nihipali in the middle.

That would be the nucleus of the Long Beach-Honolulu Spikers if Bob McGregor had his way. McGregor, who splits time between homes in Alewa Heights and Salt Lake City, is involved with the negotiations to bring a National Volleyball League (NVL) franchise to Hawaii for the inaugural season.

The NVL is about $5 million short of meeting its original starting date of late 1996. By the time of the first serve, probably in January of 1998, McGregor hopes the "Long Beach" portion of the name will be spiked back to the 310 area code.

"I'm hoping to convince the league of the rightness of Hawaii being a separate entity," said McGregor, already tapped as the operator of the Salt Lake City franchise. "There's a real grass roots connection here for volleyball. There is a willingness here to commit to a team, but only if it's here full time, not 10 games a year.

"If there is a full schedule, no matter where the team plays, there will be a following. I think the Hawaii team would draw 5,000 a night."

The NVL calls for a 12-team league playing a 42-match schedule - 21 home, 21 away - from early January to late April. Playoffs would run through May.

FIVB, the international governing body, has protected the December 1-May 31 period, not allowing for any international men's volleyball play during those months. The NVL season would directly conflict with men's intercollegiate play, which runs from January through early May.

That, however, is not the biggest conflict the NVL will face if it indeed decides to bring pro volleyball back to Hawaii for the first time since the ill-fated Hawaii Volcanoes of 1977. The biggest problem will be bucking heads with University of Hawaii men's volleyball . . . and men's basketball . . . and women's basketball.

That is, if the pro team wants to play at the Special Events Arena. League officials have literally been courting both UH and Blaisdell Arena for a potential home site.

McGregor would like to see Blaisdell selected, hoping for the best revenue-sharing deal.

"Even though the Special Events Arena is lovely, I don't see us getting the playing dates we would need and want," he said. "We don't want to go head-to-head with the university's (men's) program.

"That would be detrimental to our league and to volleyball."

The volleyball bloodline runs deep in McGregor. His father, the late Calvin McGregor, took the first Hawaii team to the USVBA national tournament in the mid-1950s.

Two players from that team - Pete Velasco and the late Tom Haine - each went on to captain the U.S. national team at an Olympic Games. Calvin McGregor, a judge and state senator, coached successful teams at the Central and Nuuanu YMCAs, chaired the USVBA All-America Committee and was named "Referee Emeritus" by the USVBA in 1977.

"Every thing I learned about volleyball I learned from my dad," said Bob McGregor, who also handles the radio broadcasts for Brigham Young men's and women's volleyball. "I remember going to the 1964 Olympic Trials with the Hawaii team. Tommy Haine and Pete Velasco were my idols. "My whole life has revolved around volleyball since, probably, 1962."

One lasting impression I have of Bob McGregor from about 10 years ago is of him coming out of the stands at Brigham Young-Hawaii to referee a women's collegiate volleyball match - in street clothes, because an official had not shown up.

"My feeling is I'll do what it takes for the good of the game," he said.

McGregor has a vested interest in the survival of the league. He has invested time and money in the league, hoping it will pay off.

His biggest reward would be to stop the schizophrenic life of doing business in Hawaii and Utah and come home for good. His goal is to do the same for pro volleyball and not have the Honolulu franchise have a split personality.

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter. Her column appears weekly.

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