Print

Former LBHS athlete Dain Blanton appointed head coach of USC Women’s Beach Volleyball

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Dain Blanton, formerly of Laguna Beach and an Olympic gold medalist, was selected as the new head coach of the USC Women’s Beach Volleyball program – as announced on July 26 by USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann. Blanton racked up a long and successful athletic career at Laguna Beach high School (LBHS) from 1987-1990 and went on to win gold in the 2000 Olympics for Beach Volleyball.

Of his time at LBHS, Blanton says, “I started there on the beaches in Laguna, and now I’m happy to have achieved another chapter in my career.”

Prior to his appointment as head coach, Blanton was a volunteer assistant coach at USC for four seasons (2015-18) as the Women of Troy won the 2015 AVCA national crown and the 2016 and 2017 NCAA championships. USC also captured back-to-back (2016-17) Pac-12 titles.

As quoted in a USC Trojan press release, Swann said, “We are delighted to have Dain Blanton back with our women’s volleyball program and this time in a leadership role as the head coach. He was vitally involved in all three of our national championships and we believe that he has the experience, knowledge, ability, and confidence to maintain our program at a championship level. He not only is an excellent teacher of the sport and in-game strategist, but he is charismatic and has strong communication skills. Most importantly, he truly cares about developing each student-athlete as a whole person and providing them with a well-rounded collegiate experience.”

Former LBHS closeup

Courtesy of USCTrojans.com

Dain Blanton, new head coach of USC Women’s Beach Volleyball

Of his selection, Blanton said, “This is an amazing opportunity to lead the USC women’s beach volleyball program and I thank the administration for the faith they have in me. During my four years as an assistant here, I saw how this program stood for excellence and success and I saw the support we received from the Trojan Family. I felt that we could do something special here and we did, we won a lot. That experience inspired my goal of becoming a head coach and, if I could do so, to be the head coach some day at USC. With my background as a player and coach, and my time at USC, I think this is a perfect fit. I look forward to continuing the championship tradition of the USC women’s beach volleyball program.”

 Blanton replaces two-time National Coach of the Year Anna Collier, who retired from collegiate coaching in June after serving as the only head coach in the program’s eight-year history.

 Blanton helped USC produce eight AVCA All-Americans and had a hand in coaching USC’s top pair of Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes to the 2015 AVCA Pairs National Championship and the 2017 USAV Collegiate National Pairs Championship (the duo also won Pac-12 pairs titles in 2016 and 2017).

Former LBHS girls

Photo by Ed Chan/VB Shots.com

Dain Blanton, right, coaching Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes while all three were at USC in 2017

 During the 2019 season, Blanton served as a color analyst and sideline reporter for ESPN, covering the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship, and the Olympic Channel, covering the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championship.

Blanton’s career at LBHS

Although he excelled in volleyball during his time at LBHS, Blanton also had an impressive record in basketball. 

Frank Aronoff, LBHS Scorekeeper, reports that in 1990, during Blanton’s participation in basketball at LBHS under Coach Ed Bowen and Assistant Coach Bret Fleming, he led Laguna to SSCIF D4 Finals. Blanton was selected all-league and all-CIF in 1990 and led the team in scoring, averaging 18.0 points per game. He holds the school record of 19 for free throws during a game against Chino in 1989.

During his LBHS volleyball career under Coach Lance Stewart, Blanton participated in the All Pacific Coast League in 1989 and in 1990 was chosen as League MVP, All CIF, and Orange County Player of the Year.

After graduating high school and receiving a scholarship in volleyball, Blanton went on to Pepperdine University where he was an All-American and on the 1992 National Championship team as a sophomore. He graduated with a degree in Public Relations and a teaching credential in Physical Education.

After graduating from Pepperdine University

Upon graduating, he joined the Pro Beach Volleyball tour and became the first African-American to win a major title when he won the Hermosa Beach Grand Slam in 1997. From there, Blanton directed his energy and attention toward a new goal of becoming one of the best players in the world. 

On September 26, 2000, Blanton and his volleyball partner Eric Fonoimoana struck gold at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. According to teamusa.com, it was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport when they took down the world’s top-seeded team from Brazil. More than 10,000 spectators cheered as Blanton and Fonoimoana played a near-perfect tournament and stunned the Brazilians to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

He then partnered with current USC men’s volleyball head coach Jeff Nygaard at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and became the first US male beach volleyball Olympian to play in two Olympic Games.

In his career, Blanton had two FIVB World Tour gold medals and six medals total and was the first male African-American to win a major beach volleyball event, the 1997 AVP Hermosa Grand Slam. He played his last professional event in 2010, on the AVP Tour.

Broadcasting career

In 2007, Blanton began broadcasting beach volleyball games for a small cable station and then got an opportunity at Fox Sports West to cover high school football. From that start, he has been climbing the ladder covering many sports including NBA, beach volleyball, NCAA volleyball, basketball, and football, and MLB while working for ABC, NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports Net, and Universal Sports Network. 

Another of Blanton’s career highlights included a stint as on-air broadcaster for NBC during the Olympic Games. Hopefully, we’ll see him on-air again as a broadcaster for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan.