Young Casey Patterson would never be in the position he is now.
Young Casey Patterson wouldn’t have taken the phone call a little more than a year ago, from his partner at the time, Chase Budinger, all that well.
After a 2019 season that was a monumental success for both, a rejuvenation of sorts for Patterson, a major breakthrough for Budinger, one that included a win at the AVP Hermosa Beach Open, two other finals, and another three semifinals, Budinger had called to tell Patterson that he was moving on.
It was understandable, of course, as many partnership moves are. Budinger wanted to find a guy who could make a push for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games with him. He wasn’t sure if Patterson, now 40 years old, was that guy. For the 2020 season, Budinger moved on to Chaim Schalk. It was a call that, maybe half a decade ago, would have incensed Patterson.
But that’s how Young Casey Patterson would have reacted.
This is Veteran Casey Patterson, a new Casey Patterson, a calmer, more understanding Casey Patterson.
“I was like ‘Dude we were in three finals, we had a really good year, we finished overall No. 1. We were the most consistent, we could really build off this, this is a great opportunity to be a really good team,’” Patterson recalled. “His mindset was four years from now and not this year or the next year, and it was funny because normally in that conversation you’d be super pissed, ‘We were in three finals!’
“We did really well, I felt healthy again and I was able to train and he let me stay at his house, and we were building some momentum.
“Normally I probably would have been really upset with that, but I was just like ‘Dude I want you to be as successful as possible, I can’t tell you what to do. I hope you do really well and you’re successful and this is the right choice for you. I want you to be successful and if that isn’t with me, then I don’t want someone pity playing with me.’ I just want to be ‘Hey dude, go for it, go win as many events as possible.’”
In their limited time together – just three tournaments in 2020 – Budinger was successful with Schalk, with two semifinals and a fifth-place finish in the AVP Champions Cup. But something wasn’t quite right with the chemistry. Schalk moved on to Theo Brunner, leaving Budinger as a free agent.
The best option on the American free agent list?
Veteran Casey Patterson.
It was nothing personal when Budinger initially split with Patterson. And because there was nothing personal, they picked up right where they left off in 2019, winning a competitive country quota to get into the upcoming qualifier for the Doha 4-star.
And even though Patterson is not young anymore, per se, he looked awfully young in the country quota match against Bill Kolinske and Miles Evans. He looked like the dancing young kid with the blonde mohawk who made the Rio Olympics, digging a swing off his chest and delivering in transition, making plays 40-year-olds just aren't supposed to make.
Budinger, meanwhile, is rapidly improving, putting in more time than perhaps any other player in the USA Volleyball federation this off-season, making a staggering ascent from year to year. He was the VolleyballMag Rookie of the Year in 2018, won his first event in 2019, took a pair of thirds in 2020, and is beginning to accumulate points for a run at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
It was Patterson who told Budinger to go win as many events as possible.
This week, they'll have a shot at doing that together.
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