LONDON -- Hugh McCutcheon stayed on the sideline and watched with delight. All around him, his players celebrated on the court, coming together for a group hug.
The U.S. volleyball coach often speaks of creating a new story. This is it.
This run by the American women’s team at the Olympics is providing all the material, and with a star named Destinee, no less. Next up is the gold-medal match Saturday night.
Everything is so different now, four years after McCutcheon’s father-in-law was stabbed to death at a Beijing tourist spot right before the opening ceremony. Different athletes now, different tournament -- he coached the men to gold last time amid the anguish -- different everything.
McCutcheon has long since separated that China trip from his latest coaching assignment: bringing home the first Olympic gold for the American women. They won silver in Beijing and soon after committed themselves to gold in London.
While McCutcheon planned to hunker down Friday studying film and plotting strategy for the title match against Brazil, the U.S. women’s basketball team was also getting ready.
Coach Geno Auriemma’s four-time defending champions, led by Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, play France for the gold medal on Saturday night at O2 Arena.
McCutcheon’s players are thrilled he has another chance to coach a championship. But not because of the turmoil he faced in China.
Destinee Hooker delivers the offensive blows and key blocks for the unbeaten and world No. 1 Americans, who are looking at long last to win it all at the Olympics. It has been two silvers and a bronze so far for the U.S. since volleyball joined the Olympic program in 1964.
As chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" rang through Earls Court after a commanding semifinal win against South Korea on Thursday, McCutcheon quickly shook hands with the opposing team before standing back to observe -- just as he always does.
This is their moment. That’s the way he prefers it. He never planned for Beijing to become all about him and his adversity.
"It’s not really relevant," McCutcheon said. "I understand the media’s interest, but generally the media are the only people who bring it up. It’s not part of our story; it’s not part of our journey. From Day 1, it’s been about USA women’s volleyball and trying to get to the mountain top. That’s it."
During breaks, McCutcheon seems to find just the right words to motivate his players. He seems to say just enough.
"One at a time here, 1-2-3!"
To this day, McCutcheon will discuss the triumph of the men’s team in Beijing. He avoids talking about the killing of his wife’s father. The women he now works with each day don’t bring it up, either. Instead, what’s shared are the things that made the men’s team so successful.