Bonnie Clinch knew her father had thorough knowledge and passion for volleyball.
But a specific moment stands out. Clinch, who is now the volleyball coach at Thomas Jefferson, once joined her father, Dennis South, and a friend of his for a road trip to Colorado. Talk of volleyball was inevitably going to happen. The friends shared that passion.
But Clinch wasn’t expecting the subject matter to get so intricate.
“For 10 hours, they talked about the volleyball rulebook,” Clinch said. “They just bounced scenarios off each other. What would you do in this situation? What’s the call here?”
Discussing the rules of volleyball to pass the time? Anyone who knew South wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear such a story.
News of South’s unexpected death on Monday came as a big shock to the Council Bluffs volleyball community.
South, 61, coached at Lewis Central High School as a varsity coach for 14 seasons, compiling a 420-257 record.
Prior to coaching, South made the U.S. Olympic team in 1980, but he never participated because there was word of an Olympic boycott. Officially joining the team meant that he would have had to leave school.
But that proved as the start of South’s career in volleyball. He came to Council Bluffs in 1994, taking a job as Lewis Central’s freshman volleyball coach before becoming the varsity coach years later.
South held that position until the conclusion of the 2014 season, but he wasn’t ready to completely step away from the sport. He joined Iowa Western’s staff as a volunteer assistant and stat keeper.
“I just think that Dennis was a servant, and he just loved the game of volleyball,” Iowa Western coach Alicia Williams said. “He told us almost weekly just how grateful he was to be here and be able to do the things he loves and be around college athletes.
“We were just with him last weekend, and he said it again. It’s just one of those things that’s hard to put into words what he meant to us. He flew under the radar, and he just let us do our job. He was just here to serve us and watch some great volleyball. That’s what he loved.”
Williams estimates South missed fewer than five matches in his three and a half seasons on the IWCC sidelines. Only two weekends ago, South wasn’t feeling well and didn’t travel with the team. But he insisted that a video of the Reivers’ matches be sent to him so that he could still stat the games from home.
Lewis Central activities director Jim Dermody spent nine years as Lewis Central Middle School’s principal before moving to his current position. South, who served as a technology systems administrator for the district, had an office right around the corner from Dermody.
“With my love of sports, I was always striking up a conversation with him about his volleyball team,” Dermody said. “He was always interesting to talk to because he always had a great knowledge of the game, and he loved the game with his coaching at Lewis Central and now at Iowa Western. He was a strong ambassador for the sport in our area.”
South was born Aug. 20, 1958, in Lawndale, California. He attended Cal State Fullerton and Pacific Christian College. He is survived by his son, Kyle South, and wife, Jill; his daughter, Kacy Johanson, and husband, Arick; his son, Brad South; and his daughter Bonnie, 30, and husband Taylor.
Twelve grandchildren also survive.
He was most passionate about his family and his favorite sport.
“I hope people realize how much of a servant he was and that he would do anything for the volleyball community,” Williams said. “Everyone knew him. I had people that were officials on the east side of Iowa that were contacting me (Monday) night only an hour after I found out.
“There are a lot of people in this volleyball community who know him. Their hearts will be hurting.”