2020 Swammy Awards: Men’s NCAA Coach of the Year – Anthony Nesty

To see all of our 2020 Swammy Awards, click here.

2020 Men’s NCAA Coach of the Year: Anthony Nesty, Florida

It can be tough to succeed a long-established coach, even when the new head coach has been part of the program just as long. Florida’s Anthony Nesty took over a program that saw a lot of transition between the the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons: longtime head coach Gregg Troy retired, Caeleb Dressel graduated, and the Gators split their hitherto-combined-gender program, with Nesty taking the reins of the men’s team.

There didn’t seem to be too much of a bump, though, as the Gator men still finished 6th at the 2019 NCAAs. They were soon thereafter hit with a couple high-profile transfers, but that didn’t seem to slow them down, either, as the Florida men exploded at the 2020 SEC Championships, easily taking the conference title, and even more impressively, setting a pair of U.S. Open Records in the process.

The first night was a harbinger of things to come, as the Gator men set a SEC Meet Record in the 800 free relay with a 6:09.91, and sophomore Kieran Smith smashed the SEC record in the 200 free (and moved to #4 all-time) with a 1:30.11. The next night Smith moved from history to legend, becoming the first man ever to go 4:06 in the 500 freestyle. In between that swim and his already-established long course prowess, Smith quickly became a front-runner to make the 2020 Olympic Team, at least for the month between SECs and the cancellation of Trials due to Covid-19.

But Smith wasn’t the only Gator swimmer to hit a U.S. Open Record. Fellow sophomore Bobby Finke followed up Smith’s show with one of his own, swimming the fastest mile in history on the final day of SECs. In between Dressel, Smith, and Finke, the Gator men now own the all-time records in the 50, 100, 500, and 1650 yard freestyle events, and it’d be no surprise if Smith and Finke were to clip the 200 and 1000 free records, respectively, at some point in the next year or two.

That fast swimming continued even after competition resumed this fall, as Smith, Finke, and several other Florida men rank at or near the top of USA long course ranks for the 2020 calendar year, providing evidence that the Gator long course tradition shows no sign of slowing down under Nesty (an Olympic gold medalist himself), and the Florida men should continue to vie for national championships and be well-represented on future international teams.

Honorable Mentions

  • Eddie Reese (Texas) – Reese is in the discussion for this award just about every year, and for good reason, as he seems to be able to continually reinvent his approach even after four decades at Texas. The Longhorn men were projected to score 474.5 points at the 2020 NCAAs, and while a lot of the times represented in that projection were done late in 2019, Texas had been plenty of fast swimming in January and February, including Daniel’s Krueger’s nation-leading 42.1 in the 100 yard freestyle. But the Longhorns also came stampeding out of the gate this fall as competition ramped back up. Junior Drew Kibler hit 4:08 in the 500 free in October, freshmen Carson Foster and David Johnston set national age group records in the 400 IM and the 1000 free, and Texas looked as strong as ever at their invite, including a 6:07 800 free relay that was the fastest time ever outside of NCAAs.
  • Dave Durden (Cal) – It’s a similar story for the Golden Bears, who were seeded 2nd behind Texas for NCAAs with 442 points. Like Texas, a lot of those seed times came from late 2019, but Cal also dominated the 2020 Pac-12 Championships, where Ryan Hoffer and Hugo Gonzalez put up nation-leading times in the 50 free and 400 IM, respectively. And while Cal didn’t compete as much this fall as Texas did, they made the most of their chances. Junior Reece Whitley hit 1:48.5 in the 200 breast, moving him to #2 all-time, and the early returns on a strong freshman class led by Destin Lasco have been promising.

Prior Winners:

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1 year ago

Funny how some coaches are the jesus and some are the devil according to comments, wonder who is the most mediocre coach of the USA, just getting things done. Of course I know you do get to coach major university by being nice and good coach, many more qualities needed.

1 year ago

Congratulations! The Florida gators have a great program. They will continue to be great under his leadership.

1 year ago

Gefeliciteerd Anthony!!! Als Surinamer, zijn we super trots op jou!

1 year ago

Congrats Coach Nesty!!!

1 year ago

Congrats! Nesty is a great coach, not only developing the Gators as swimmers, but also as people. With Finke, Smith and more, he might just be saving US men’s mid-distance/distance swimming.

Texas A&M Swim Fan
1 year ago

First of all, I’ve got no qualms about Coach Nesty winning this award. Just feel that Jay Holmes should have been more “in the mix” for it what with what he did this past season & what he continues to do to move A&M up in the national spotlight👍👍

Reply to  Texas A&M Swim Fan
1 year ago

Holmes has improved Texas A&M quite a bit, but they were heavily favored at SECs in Feb. and UF ran away with the meet and not just with stars like Finke, Baqlah and Smith. Lots of guys stepped up that many have never heard of. And they withstood injuries, retirement, and transfers and swam lights out. Team pulled together for win.

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Rev
1 year ago

Like I said above, got no qualms with Nesty winning it. Award should not (in my opinion) be based on winning a conference championship “necessarily”(look at previous winners & the Honorable Mentions above) but on improvement for the team from that year compared to the previous year (no matter the conference). Jay Holmes has done that (probably others that I’m not aware of as well)!!

Reply to  Texas A&M Swim Fan
1 year ago

A&M men is an awkward scenario because we all know that Jason Calanog is the reason they’re killing it but you can’t give the award to their assistant coach.

Jay has been the coach of the A&M men for a long time. They’ve been firmly mediocre for a long time. Then Calanog roles in and they turn into a top 5 program. It’s not a coincidence.

Jay isn’t a bad coach. He just isn’t a great coach. If your goal is to be in the top 25 for X years straight (something they use to brag about), he’s a great fit for your program. If you want to contend for SEC titles, he needs some help.

1 year ago

That wasn’t the real Guerra. There’s an imposter out there. Congrats to Anthony! I’m glad he quickly cleaned up the mess Gregg Troy made of Florida at the end of his career.

Reply to  Guerra
1 year ago

Imposter Guerra has been removed. Wouldn’t want anybody to tarnish your sterling reputation in these comment sections.

1 year ago

Anthony has always been a humble, quiet class act. He was a great competitor and is a principled coach. His IQ is off the charts exceeded only by his kindness and patience. A well deserved award. Congratulations my friend.

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