Legendary Coach John Dunning returns to Pacific as mentor

A videographer shoots a news interview with John Dunning

John Dunning (right) is interviewed by Good Day Sacramento about a reunion of Pacific's legacy volleyball players on Oct. 15, 2022.

The coach who led University of the Pacific women’s volleyball to NCAA championship titles in 1985 and 1986 is back on campus—this time to mentor coaches.

John Dunning returns to the Pacific Athletics Department to fill the role of special assistant to the director of athletics for competitive excellence, serving as a leader and sounding board for Pacific’s head and assistant coaches. His new role provides a unique opportunity not often seen in college athletics.

“John is an exceptional leader and Hall of Fame coach with a passion for Pacific and a perspective shaped through life experiences and decades of success,” said Director of Athletics Janet Lucas.

“His commitment to the growth and advancement of our coaches and the vision for the Pacific Tigers will be influential as we build on our tradition of athletic success,” Lucas added.

In alignment with his educational organization, The Art of Coaching Volleyball, which he founded with former Pacific volleyball coach Terry Liskevych, Dunning’s new role is designed to help coaches grow and improve.

“It has been great to get to know John over the last few weeks,” said Robin Goodman, head men’s tennis coach. “I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversations, particularly on the dynamics between accountability and relationship-building, as well as strategies to foster a strong team culture. He has been a major and impactful resource for the department and me.”

Dunning, who lives in Lodi, said he loved his 16 years as Pacific’s head women’s volleyball coach and is pleased to return. 

“I am very excited to join the Pacific athletic department staff as a resource for the coaching staff,” he said. “Julie and I have many fond memories of our time here and have enjoyed the last six years living in the community again.”

Hailey Decker, assistant softball coach, said she appreciates the opportunity to work with a coach of Dunning’s caliber.

“Coach Dunning has helped us grow and has given advice so we can be better for our current student-athletes,” Decker said. “We are lucky he’s a Tiger.”

Dunning coached the Pacific women’s volleyball team from 1985-2000. In addition to the two NCAA championships, he led the team to a runner-up national finish in 1990, earned five Big West Conference championships and had 16 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. 

He was named Big West Coach of the Year four times and was inducted into the University of the Pacific Hall of Fame in 2007. He coached 16 All-Americans, including two-time Olympian Elaina Oden, 2008 Olympian Jennifer Joines and 1988 Olympian Jayne Gibson-McHugh.

Dunning is looking forward to sharing his expertise.

“I have met all the coaches, and it’s been a joy,” he said. “My job is to talk to them, listen, relate to what they are going through, help them with whatever they need, be a good listener and be accessible.”