After graduating from Penn State University in 1971, Larry Bock became a banker in nearby Huntingdon, Pa. But he never lost touch with the sport that captured his interest.
Bock's dedication to volleyball has put the Navy women's head coach in the record books. During his 41 seasons on the sidelines at Juniata and Navy, Bock has become the winningest coach in the history of college volleyball. Since he started his head coaching career at Juniata College in 1977, Bock's teams have won nearly 80 percent of their games. Bock has led the Juniata women's and men's teams and the Navy women's program to 1,441 victories.
"I played on the club team at Penn State before they had a varsity program," Bock said. "When Juniata was adding women's volleyball as a varsity sport, they offered me the coaching job, on a part-time basis, for $400 a year. That was my community service, instead of the Rotary or Lions Club."
Bock coached the Juniata women's program to 30 consecutive NCAA Division III tournament berths. During his 34 years at the small liberal arts college in Huntingdon, the Eagles appeared in eight national title games and won championships in 2004 and 2006.
Bock also got the Juniata men's program off the ground. During his six seasons at the helm, he guided the Eagles to 100 victories and three Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association divisional championships. He also served as Juniata's athletic director from 1995-2011.
"There were a lot of hats for me to wear," Bock said. "My wife and children should all get sainthood at some point for putting up with that."
After guiding the 2010 Juniata women's team to a 34-6 record and a berth in the NCAA semifinals, Bock found a new challenge in Annapolis, Md. Following a strong stretch in the mid-2000s, the Navy women's volleyball program had gone a combined 15-44 during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Despite the fact he had never coached at the NCAA Division I level, Bock was ready for a change and believed in the possibilities at Navy.
"Juniata was a great community of good colleagues, where the student-athletes competed and studied at a high level," Bock said. "Our men's and women's teams played at Navy, and I got to know Annapolis and the Academy. But my wife and I weren't going to uproot our daughters.
"Then, I got a call from [Navy athletic director] Chet Gladchuk. There was a plan for all of the teams here, and I've been really lucky to be a part of that plan. Coming to Navy in 2011 gave me new life professionally. The timing was right, and it was a really neat move for my family and for me."
The progress at Navy was slow but steady. Navy endured losing seasons during Bock's first three years, then turned it around. The 2014 team finished with a 14-12 overall mark and placed third in the Patriot League with an 11-5 conference record. Navy slumped to 9-20 the following year but rebounded with a 20-9 record and a fourth-place conference finish last season.
"It's been a process," Bock said. "There was no dramatic single thing that I've done. I made sure that we had the right coaches and players. We took advantage of the inherent work ethic and intelligence of our student-athletes, and I think that we've worked as hard as any volleyball team out there. I've had assistant coaches that are the best in the business, and I've also had a lot of support from the administration."
The 2017 team could be Bock's best at Navy. Through games of Oct. 8, the Midshipmen had compiled a seven-game winning streak that raised their overall record to 16-3 and their Patriot League mark to 6-0. The team's most significant accomplishment to date was a four-set win against American University, which has won 14 of the past 16 Patriot League championships.
"They've learned how to finish and play at a high level regardless of the circumstances," Bock said. "Our setters are really good, and Patricia Mattingly is as good as any player in the Patriot League."
Mattingly, a junior, was the only player in the Patriot League last season to rank among the top 10 players in average assists (second, 9.58) and digs (10th, 3.07).
Bock has earned a plethora of coaching awards. A five-time winner of the American Volleyball Coaches Association's Division III National Coach of the Year honor, Bock also received the organization's Founders Award for service to the sport in 2000. He was a member of AVCA's first Hall of Fame class in 2003.
Bock also earned two major honors from USA Volleyball, including the Trailblazer Award (2006) and the All-Time Great Coaches Award (2009).
But despite the national recognition he has received from his peers, Bock is still enthusiastic about coaching.
"The neat thing about coaching is that every year, it's like you have a new job," he said. "There's a renewal of interest that's a part of the deal, and it also keeps you on your toes."
Issue 238: October 2017