Killian will be missed

March 29, 2011|By Charlie Brande, Daily Pilot

The volleyball community lost one of the great ones and our area lost one of our legends Friday night. Donny Killian passed away from complications from pneumonia. He was surrounded by his four children as well as his entire family at his death. He was 57 and had survived two major cancer operations.

Donny was an outstanding athlete who was an All-County basketball player as a junior for Coach Tandy Gillis' 1970 Corona del Mar Sea Kings. He could run, jump, shoot, and most importantly, play the hard-nosed defense that Tandy's teams excelled at. The 1971 season looked even more promising with sophomore phenom Casey Jones joining the varsity until Killian's season was ended with a torn ACL injury.

With the expectation of rehabbing, Killian committed to play basketball at UC Irvine. After spending a year rehabbing, the knee had not regained its previous strength. It appeared that Donny would not continue his athletic career at the NCAA level.


The Killian family had spent many days at the beach at T Street in San Clemente and there was always a volleyball court available so Donny played whenever possible. I was lucky enough to have played many games with him at those family outings. He loved to jump and hit which worked out well because I could set him.

With a rich USC family history, Killian opted to transfer to USC to enjoy college life as a student. Once there, he realized that there was a men's volleyball team that he could play on. The strain on the knee was much less and they needed tall middle blockers.

Donny Killian realized his goal of playing NCAA athletics on the 1976 USC men's volleyball team. The 1976 team featured a lefty off of the football team named Steve O'Bradovich and a freshman from San Clemente who had played on the Trojan basketball team, Bob Yoder.

While this season was not the most successful, the 1977 season was awesome.

With Brazilian Celso Kalache who had not played in 1976 due to the Olympics and freshman setter, Dusty Dvorak, joining the team, USC won its first NCAA national championship with Donny Killian in the middle. He had survived the disappointment of his basketball career and now was an NCAA champion at his school, USC.

This started a long line of Killians in USC volleyball. Donny's brother, Doug, played on the 1982 and 1983 teams. Donny's daughter, Lauren was the captain of back-to-back women's national championship teams in 2002 and 2003. Lauren is married to NFL quarterback, Matt Cassel, who she met while at USC.

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