Pete Hanson had every reason to believe his volleyball days were behind him in 1985.
His job was moving furniture in Fort Collins, Colorado, when he got a call out of the blue from Ohio State women’s volleyball coach Jim Stone. Stone and Hanson had grown up playing volleyball in Michigan and then at Ball State and stayed in touch. The Ohio State men’s team had a vacancy. Would Hanson be interested?
Little could Hanson have known that he would be at Ohio State for 35 years and win three national championships and four national coach of the year awards.
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On Thursday, Hanson announced his retirement.
“I loved being in the gym,” Hanson said at a news conference at St. John Arena. “I loved competing. But there were some things that finally took a toll physically. As I told our team yesterday, I can’t give them the effort I expect out of them myself. That’s not what our program is about and it’s not what I’m about. It’s certainly time to let someone else run the program.”
Hanson, 62, took over a program that found itself in danger of being demoted to club status shortly after he arrived. Ohio State decided to keep volleyball a varsity program, and Hanson gradually built it into an elite one.
Hanson had a career record of 712-359 as coach. The victories are the third-most in NCAA history.
The Buckeyes won 18 Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association regular-season titles and 13 conference tournament titles under Hanson.
They won their first national championship in 2011 and captured it again in 2016 and 2017, the latter at St. John.
“As I watched the stands at the start of the match the folks just kept coming,” he said. “And they kept coming. They filled up the second deck and almost started to fill up the third deck. At that point, I couldn’t have imagined a better scene for Ohio State volleyball.
“The only way it got better was two hours later we won the national championship and shared it with all of those folks here. But that’s one slice of a big pie.”
That pie included impressive academic success by his players. His program produced 208 Academic All-Big Ten honorees.
One of those was Christy Blough, a setter on the last two national title teams.
“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of all the things he’s done for me, and what I’ve heard he’s done for other players, is that he always found a way to keep the player’s interest first, both in terms of volleyball and in their life off the court,” said Blough, who just finished his second year at OSU’s medical school. “That’s a tough thing to do in collegiate athletics. I really appreciate that and I think a lot of other players would say the same thing.
“You could talk to him about anything and he was always willing to listen and help you with anything you needed.”
Hanson was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.
“Pete Hanson’s Buckeye career embodied our mantra of ‘The People, The Tradition, The Excellence,’” athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “He’s found success on the court and molded young men off of it, preparing them for life after college. Pete leaves a lasting legacy at The Ohio State University.”