Gene Selznick, a beach volleyball pioneer, innovator and legend during the 1950s and ’60s, died Sunday after a series of health issues resulting in pneumonia. He was 82.
Son Dane Selznick said his father died at Kindred Hospital in Los Angeles.
Gene Selznick, who grew up in Canoga Park and went to L.A.’s Manual Arts High, was often referred to as the “King of the Beach,” beginning his sand career in 1948, according to the Beach Volleyball Database (linked here) and then indoors in 1951. He was a 6-foot-2 and 195 pounder who dominated the sport with a variety of partners.
Selznick was inducted into the CBVA Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1988. His bio on the Volleyball Hall website calls him “perhaps the most talented volleyball player ever. He played the game with a cocky arrogance that found him with just as many fans as enemies.”
He was captain of the U.S. men’s national volleyball team for 17 consecutive years, starting in 1953, and his teams won the Volleyball World Championships in 1960 and ’66.
Selznick became a successful beach coach in his later years, helping Sinjin Smith and Carl Henkel in the 1996 Summer Olympics, and Misty May and Holly McPeak, who made the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia. Selznick is also credited in introducing beach and indoor volleyball to Basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, who took the sport during his days with the Lakers in the 1970s.