Class of 1992Active: 1950 - 1978
38 Open Victories
Any debate about who was the greatest American volleyball player of all time must start with the name Gene Selznick. For well over sixty years he has helped define volleyball in this country. In the indoor game, Selznick won seven U.S. Open Championships, was a 10-time USVBA All-American, won two Pan-American game titles, and led the U.S. National Team in the 1956 and 1960 World Championships. In 1956 he was the first ever American named to the FIVB All-World Volleyball Team.
But as great as his accomplishments were on the hard court, his true genius was found on the sands of Southern California. And while State Beach is what comes to mind when we think of Gene, the truth is Selznick first honed his beach skills right here in Hermosa Beach. In the early 1950s, State Beach was the epicenter of beach volleyball. A skinny Selznick was not quite ready to take on the best at State Beach so he worked on his game in Hermosa until he was read to drive up PCH and take on the big boys. Well as we all know, it didn’t take long for Selznick to start dominating at State Beach and eventually dominate at every beach in California.
His won his first “open” with Everette Keller at the 1950 State Beach Open. From there, the records get a bit fuzzy as Selznick won anywhere from 40 to 60 opens depending on who you talk to. He won with a variety of partners, but his greatest success came with Don McMahon, Bernie Holtzman, and Ron Lang, with whom he teamed to win over 20 Opens.
Selznick not only won, but he won with style. He had an aura of Hollywood and celebrity about him that continues until today. He played at the Sorrento Open in front of President Kennedy. He was kissed by movie and television actresses after victories. He taught Hollywood celebrities how to play. And he set the modern standard for dancing and partying all night and then competing and winning the next day.
After his playing days ended, Selznick continued to be a dominant presence in the sport. Organizing tournaments at State Beach, coaching indoor teams, and coaching such great beach players as Holly McPeak and others. His impact on our sport is beyond comparison.