If success on the court were treated equally across all sports, media circuses would follow Russ Rose and Emmanuil Kaidanov like the rockstars their coaching accolades present them to be.
Certainly, Rose would not be able to suntan and smoke a cigar in peace on a bench outside Rec Hall on a hot August day before his team starts practice.
While Kaidanov, with as decorated an office as any in school history, would have to install a foolproof deadbolt lock to keep from being distracted by seas of Penn State supporters wanting to share a conversation with him.
But these two have the luxury of enjoying simple pleasures in peace, while having built on to their legacies at Penn State for more than the past 30 years.
Kaidanov has sustained a level of collegiate fencing excellence for 31 years and counting, collecting 12 national championships and training 188 All-Americans along the way.
Guiding the ship for the past 34 years, including directing an unprecedented run of four straight national championship victories from 2007-10, Rose has been the face of Penn State women’s volleyball.
Despite the years passed, the two remain sharp. Their sports have changed however, and with that, there is a choice to make whether to integrate new school into their old school, or keep it all the way old school.
“A coach cannot be successful if [they] do not follow a trend,” Kaidanov said in his trademark, thick Russian accent. “If someone is just set in methods of how it was done in the old time, it’s no good. The coach is supposed to evolve as his sport does.”
Kaidanov has taken advantage of technology at all levels — game film, tracking instantaneous results of where upcoming tournaments are taking place, even using the web to shop for a car.
Comparable to Kaidanov, Rose embraces technology in certain aspects, but the last image you will see on Penn State’s sideline is the Chicago native wielding an iPad to draw up plays.
“I think if you depend on electricity and the power goes off, you have a problem,” said Rose, a sworn pen-and-pad coach. “If my technology is bad, I ask someone if I could borrow a pen and then I’m back to where I was.”
The no-nonsense coaching style that Rose embraces has helped him draw in many key players who molded the team’s most recent national championship in 2010, including Deja McClendon.
McClendon said Rose is “definitely old school” as far as his coaching style, and said his off-the-cuff remarks and critiques keep everyone on their toes.
“You never know what he’s going to say, and that keeps it fresh,” McClendon said.
According to an interview published in the Oct. 5, 1983 issue of The Daily Collegian, it seems this attitude and unabashed embrace of his first amendment rights have been present from the start.
“My volleyball team is not a democracy,” Rose said in the 1983 interview. “What I think is right. I am firm in my decisions.”
The landscape of his sport has changed significantly since this interview with a young Rose, who had not yet won an NCAA title. But his wily veteran presence continues to lure today’s most coveted recruits to Penn State.
Freshman Megan Courtney virtually could sign on to play with any volleyball program in the country, but she chose Penn State. The 6-foot-2 outside hitter calls Ohio home and could have attended nearby Ohio State, now ranked No. 19 in the country.
Why did she choose Penn State? Largely because of the iconic coach.
“I think every coach has passion for volleyball, but his passion and intelligence and knowledge for volleyball is a level up from anyone else that I’ve ever seen,” Courtney said.
Passion, intelligence and an all-encompassing dedication to their craft; this is generally thought to be what draws prospects into attending a certain school, or choosing to play for a certain coach.
However, across today’s broad spectrum of college athletics, coaches are generally more tuned into the 24/7 news cycle of today than Rose and Kaidanov.
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has more than one million Twitter followers and Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian has sent nearly 2,000 tweets to his 41,000-plus followers.
Perhaps the aforementioned coaches and their Twitter counterparts raise their celebrity status via their online presence, but Rose and Kaidanov prefer to use the tried-and-true method of simply selling Penn State and themselves.
Kaidanov, admitting that selling himself to recruits is one of his weak points, said selling himself takes a backseat to selling Penn State.
“I would prefer that the kids would come and ask about Penn State, rather than me going and selling them Penn State,” Kaidanov said. “It’s probably not my strongest suit, but I want to work with someone who wants to come to Penn State.”
Just wanting to become a Nittany Lion is enough for Kaidanov to have fencers on the fast track to donning helmet and jacket as a Nittany Lion.
“[People who come here] want to become somebody,” Kaidanov said. “They like us. They like our school, our people, our way of life.”
Senior fencing Miles Chamley-Watson reflected on a conversation that he and Kaidanov had prior to Chamley-Watson declaring he would attend Penn State.
Chamley-Watson said the coach asked what he wanted to get out of his college experience, to which the foilist responded he wanted to be the best.
“He replied, ‘Then this is where you want to be,’” Chamley-Watson said. “Coach was the reason I came here. All I wanted was to be a champion and win, and he made me both of those … and an Olympian.”
Chamley-Watson clearly embraces this way of life Kaidanov is talking about; however, Chamley-Watson may embrace current social media and technology even moreso.
While chasing gold during this past summer’s Olympics, Chamley-Watson accrued more than 1,500 Twitter followers, about 1,000 Instagram followers and constantly updated his 9,000 “likers” on Facebook of his progress in London.
Meanwhile, his coach is not quite up-to-date with what those statistics mean.
“I do use emails constantly and I started a Facebook, but I have no clue how to use it,” Kaidanov said. “I just say “hi, bye,” that’s it.”
Rose is not the most technologically adept person either, but he claims the biggest difference between today and 34 years ago is the level of support Penn State volleyball gets.
As of Sunday, Penn State averages 3,530 fans per home match, good for third in the NCAA.
While not as visible, with White Building-hosted fencing events lucky to reach a few hundreds onlookers, Kaidanov said fencing has become much more popular over the years.
“On one hand, there is a wave of professional coaches from the Soviet Union and the countries of Eastern Europe that came to the United States,” Kaidanov said. “On another hand, a lot of former fencers are choosing the route of being professional fencing coaches. Fencing is growing not only in quantity, but in quality.”
Foreign influence in the game is strong as ever, especially at Penn State, the home of All-American Margherita Guzzi-Vincenti.
The Milan, Italy born-and-raised Guzzi-Vincenti has taken advantage of every opportunity to not only compete on the mats in Happy Valley, but is also studying to become a doctor.
Rose also notes an influx of foreign influence on today’s women’s volleyball.
“A number of years ago there weren’t any international kids playing and now they make contributions to teams,” Rose said. “You don’t really have any information on them unless you recruited them yourself. You don’t really know what a certain player is going to do and how it changes the complexion of a team.”
There are currently no foreign-born players on Penn State’s roster, as Rose speculated the foreign influence is perhaps most apparent among West Coast teams.
While foreign players have made an impact which was nonexistent when Rose started 34 years ago, so have products of his coaching who have went on to become coaches themselves.
Rose routinely toes the sideline against his former players — already facing several early this season, including Eastern Illinois’ Kate Price and DePaul’s Nadia Edwards.
Kaidanov said at the last competition he attended, there were “10 or 12” of his former students who either own clubs or coach clubs and teams.
Now a combined 17 National Championships richer and 65-plus years wiser, these two men have seemingly visible ambassadors.