Michael “Mike” O’Hara was born in Waco, Texas, and moved with his family to California
when he was 7 years old. He grew up on the beach in Santa Monica and went to Santa Monica High School. Four foot, 10 inches tall in the 10th grade, he grew 17 inches in 18 months and was 6 foot, 4 inches by the time he entered college.
He started at Santa Monica College, then transferred to UCLA where he took up volleyball. In 1953, Mike and the rest of his Delta Tau Delta fraternity intramural championship volleyball team talked the UCLA athletic director into letting them represent the university at the national collegiate volleyball championships in Omaha, Nebraska. They roped the championship trophy to the roof of their car to get it back to Westwood. The athletic director decided to make it a varsity sport. Mike graduated from UCLA in 1954 and received his MBA from USC in 1963.
In 1959, Mike played on the gold medal winning U.S. national team at the Pan American Games. He played in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics on the American team at volleyball’s first appearance in the Summer Games. Mike attended every Olympics from 1964 through 2012.
Outdoors on the beach, he teamed with Mike Bright to dominate at Manhattan Beach where they won the first five consecutive Manhattan Beach Open Volleyball Championships. Mike has been made a member of various volleyball halls of fame.
Mike was also an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. He helped develop the ABA and World Hockey Association. Then he helped found three sports leagues: The International Track Association, International Volleyball Association and Team Cup Volleyball. He also owns the sport of Wallyball.
Mike served as director of sports and director of international television for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and worked with IMG after that. He supported efforts to get the Olympics back to Los Angeles for three decades. He also taught business and entrepreneurship courses at Santa Monica College for over 30 years. In 1966, Mike coached Santa Monica College Men’s Volleyball Team to win the Collegiate Men’s Division. He also assisted as coach for women’s tennis at Santa Monica College.
Mike’s philosophy was this: What’s important in life is not how many breaths you take, it’s how many times life makes you breathless.
Mike married Billie Ross in 1955 and had a daughter, Kelley. Mike later married Arlen Range in 1963. They had a son, Ryan, and were married for 54 years. They have lived in the Palisades for 46 years.
Mike is survived by his wife Arlen, son Ryan (Victoria), daughter Kelley (Bill), and three grandchildren (Spencer, Josie and Michael).
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