As far as the number of people having an incredible impact as a player and coach in the international and collegiate game, Rudy Suwara is near the top. After playing in his first tournament in the Brooklyn YMCA in 1957, he suited up for his first USA Volleyball Nationals in Scranton, Pennsylvania the following year. From that point on he never looked back, building a Hall of Fame career.
His dominance in the international game began in 1964, netting him 11 consecutive years of USA Volleyball All-America honors. He was a member of the 1966 and 1970 squads that competed in the FIVB World Championships, and his team took home gold in the 1967 Pan American Games. Team USA continued to make headlines in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City becoming the first team to defeat the former Soviet Union.
Then came the decision to add a whistle to his volleyball wardrobe venturing into the world of coaching. His first job came as a UCLA Assistant Coach before taking the head coaching reigns at UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos went on to finish in the top-5 three of his four years there, but more impressively coached his team to a USVBA Collegiate and Open Division National Championships, the only college team to ever win those two titles during the same year.
But his playing days were not over. He headed south to become a player/coach for the San Diego Breakers of the IVA Professional Volleyball League. That was where he adopted the "Tazmanian Devil" nickname because of his ferocious style of play.
He stayed in the San Diego to take the head coaching job for both the men and women at San Diego State University in 1976. There he produced several All-Americans, including eventual Olympians Laurel Brassey and Angela Rock.
USA Volleyball has recognized Suwara on many occasions. He earned the All-Time Great Player Award and Medallion of Merit in 1976. Suwara later was presented the George J. Fisher Leader in Volleyball Award in 1994. As part of USA Volleyball's 75th Diamond Celebration in 2003, Suwara was included on the USA Volleyball 75th Anniversary All-Era Team for the 1953 to 1977 time period. Most recently in 2010, USAV presented him with the 2010 James E. Coleman USA National Team Award.
"What I best know Rudy for is his passion for volleyball," said San Diego Mesa Men's Head Coach John Landicho. "When you watch Rudy at work, one-on-one or in the practice gym, his love for the sport is readily apparent. And although he is "retired," that passion continues today."