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John Hanley... The Hometown Boy

John Hanley’s volleyball career began in the backyard of his family home, at the age of 12 when his older sister, Kathy, discovered her love of the game in a P. E. Class at SBCC. She needed a training partner to work on her pepper skills and her skinny little brother would do. A few years later John made his debut at East Beach as the fourth “girl” with his sister, Kathy Gregory and Hillary Johnson. At that time he was a rangy 5’7”, so he was perfect for the women’s net and his 3 training partners.

When Hanley attended Santa Barbara High School he began on the water polo team and in a short time joined the volleyball team. Along with his lifelong friends, Warren Strand and Karch Kiraly, the 1978 Don’s did not lose a single game, crushing Laguna Beach in the CIF finals in a three game thriller at a packed Santa Barbara City College gym.

In the summers, John and Karch attacked East Beach with gusto, and with potent all-around skills far beyond their years. When asked which court he might like for his dedication John replied, “15.” Why so far from all the other courts, he was asked? John thought fondly of his training days with Karch and replied, “That’s where it all began.” As younger high school kids, they could not get a game with any of the experienced players, so they invented their own games and played one-on-one on court 15. But soon they were challenging Santa Barbara’s best, and would ride bikes down to the beach after school with ambitions firmly intact. They’d battle with Ralph Minc, Jon Lee, Larry Milliken, Don Shaw, Skip Allen and were soon holding their own with the best locals.

After graduation from SBHS, Hanley attended and played indoor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo while Karch moved on to UCLA. But the beach brought them back together where both would rise rapidly and earn AAA ratings. Hanley had his first top four Open finish in the 1979 World Championship with Jon Lee at Redondo Beach, cementing his position among the elite, beating top teams, Randy Stoklos/Chris Marlowe and Tom Chamales/Andrew Smith.

In the gym, Hanley was a superb setter and a “relentless hammer”. He received a scholarship to the University of Hawaii where he studied architecture, and first saw the love of his life, Linda Robertson. She was a volleyball star for UCLA, and he was sitting with his teammates on the sidelines and announced to his friends, “I’m gonna marry that girl!” They got married in 1989 and now have two wonderful sons, Matthew and Turner. Hanley received “All American” honors in college and played on the USA national team for a period, but the beach was in his blood.

Hanley played seven beach tournaments in 1981, earning his first two victories at Marine Street and later at Lake Tahoe with his future pro partner and great friend, Jon Stevenson. He earned a grand total of $375 for both tournaments! Weekdays, the pair would play on the main court in Santa Barbara, and for training, try to defeat everyone 15-0. After many training victories, Stevenson suggested that they would never get any better playing only these games, so the two again returned to court 15 - where it all began again.

In 1983 Hanley won the Rosecrans Open with Steve Obradovich, and finished second three times and third twice. He had become the beach star of his young dreams and was now consistently among the sport’s very best.

Hanley began his AVP career in 1984, winning four tourneys with Stevenson: Scottsdale, Seal Beach, Santa Cruz, and Fort Lauderdale. In 1985 he again won four events with “Jonny Steve”: Fort Lauderdale, Boulder, Wildwood Beach NJ and in September, Jon and John won in Santa Barbara in front of the hometown crowd on the sands of East Beach. These were the glory days of beach volleyball and Hanley was a solid pro, making very good money for every high finish.

The summers of ’86 - ’89, Hanley was a dominant presence on tour, with dozens of top three finishes, and victories on both coasts with Stevenson (San Francisco) and with Dan Vrebalovich (Ventura, Florida).

In total, Hanley won sixteen titles. He received the AVP Ron Von Hagen Award in 1993, and was inducted into the CVBA Hall of Fame in 2011.

John Hanley represented Santa Barbara proudly throughout his brilliant beach volleyball career, furthering the city's reputation as a Mecca of the sport.
John Hanley court deditcation photo



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