Bob Bowman Unpacks Decision to Coach France Instead of U.S. at Paris Olympics

Bob Bowman revealed one of the reasons why he’ll be coaching with the French at the Paris Olympics this summer is because they don’t care if he also coaches swimmers from other countries — unlike Team USA.

“It just makes it so much better for everyone for me to coach with the French, because the French have no stipulations about me coaching other nationalities and it’s a little different with the USA team, which I certainly respect,” Bowman said at last weekend’s Pro Swim Series stop in San Antonio. “So it just makes sense for everybody because then I can coach everybody I’m coaching now.”

Bowman said there were “several reasons” why he won’t be serving on the U.S. Olympic coaching staff, including the potentially distracting attention surrounding his star swimmer, 21-year-old Frenchman Leon Marchand.

“Last summer, when I was the coach of the U.S. team and I also had Leon and some guys there, I sat down and the first question in the USA press conference was, ‘Will Leon break Michael (Phelps)’s record?'” Bowman recalled. “I don’t want to be in that position, I don’t want to be put Team USA in that position, I would never do that. And I have a feeling that in Paris, Leon might be a little bigger than he was last summer.”

Bowman was an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic team in 2004, 2008, and 2012 before being promoted to head coach in 2016. He helped coach France at the 2022 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, then went back to being head coach for the U.S. at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

Bowman’s international swimmers, Marchand (200 IM, 400 IM, 200 butterfly) and Hungary’s Hubert Kos (200 backstroke), combined for four individual world titles last summer compared to just five for his American swimmers. He said he spent about “97.5%” of his time focused on Team USA versus his international talents and didn’t see any ethical issue with helping swimmers from other countries.

“There’s a global community in swimming,” Bowman said last summer. “Almost every one of the coaches on this deck is involved with more than one country’s swimmers. It’s ethically okay to me. Bottom line is, I get paid to coach these guys at ASU. I’m representing my country for the love of my country. I’m happy to do that and I have some skills to do that, but I don’t think there’s any ethical question. Everybody gets support. It’s not zero-sum about taking away from the U.S. guys. It’s really not.

“My concern when I’m here is that I’m, No. 1, taking care of every USA responsibility that I have,” he added. “Making our relays as good as they can possibly be. Making sure these athletes are supported to the full extent.  Then, outside of that, I can certainly keep an eye on Leon and see what’s going on. It’s not like he needs that much attention from me. I’m not taking time away from the U.S. guys to say ‘nice job, Leon. Make your breaststroke better.’”

Two months after the 2023 World Championships, Virginia’s Todd DeSorbo and Florida’s Anthony Nesty were named head coaches of the U.S. women’s and men’s squads for the Paris Olympics this summer. Bowman is expected to serve as an assistant on the French staff under Jacco Verhaeren, who was hired as France’s performance director of swimming in 2021 after seven years leading Australia’s swim team.

Two days after leading Marchand, Kos, and the rest of the Arizona State men to their first NCAA title in program history, Bowman took over as the director of swimming and head men’s coach at Texas. His six-year contract is worth at least $2.75 million, plus incentives.

“Obviously I put my heart and soul into ASU, I love it to death,” Bowman said. “I love those guys. When the (Texas) opportunity came up, it was kind of an agonizing month. Let’s just say I haven’t had a lot of sleep for a while because I knew what the ramifications would be. Having said that, the opportunity is one that is so rare in this sport and, quite frankly, so special that I could not say no to it.”

Marchand turned pro and followed Bowman to Austin along with much of his ASU pro crew. Kos entered the transfer portal and committed to train with Bowman at least through the Paris Olympics.

“We have a great group,” Bowman said. “They seem to be right on track.”

Bowman also offered some insight into what lessons he learned from coaching 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps and how he’s applying them to his new batch of students.

“You just have to focus on what you’re doing and realize that the challenge of the Olympics is not necessarily swimming the events,” Bowman said. “Everybody’s trained to do that and is capable of doing that, but can you do it in the environment? That’s the challenge. You have to learn how to do a couple things: Number one, you have to learn how to block out some noise, because there will be constant noise. You have to learn how to adapt when things pop up, because they will. You can’t just expect it’s going to be a dream sequence of events where you just go and it happens. Part of my job will be to just fend some things before they even get to them, so it’s kind of a team effort on that. Leon is well aware, and we’ve talked about it for years now, about what that challenge will be like.”

Bowman added that Marchand is pretty independent at this point and doesn’t need him much anymore at big meets.

“The last thing you want to do with a high-level swimmer is make them dependent on their coach,” Bowman said. “He’s very good at knowing what he needs to do and how he needs to do it. We also have built in a system of routines that are basically automatic at this meet. All he needs to know is when his event starts and that lets him know when he’s going to warm up, when he’s going to put his suit on, when he’s going to go to the ready room, what to do after — he’s got a whole thing. He doesn’t really have to make a lot of decisions at the meet, and that’s by design, because the last thing you want to be doing at the Olympics is trying to figure that out. That just has to be part of your DNA at that point.”

In This Story

77
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

77 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Masters Swimmer
1 month ago

I just like seeing great swimming happen. Sure, it is good to see the USA win and I am pulling for them, but just seeing fast competitive racing is awesome, regardless of what country the swimmer represents.

Bowman is smart to do what makes sense for his career. Other countries are more generous with their coaches & athletes, so why not go where the opportunity is best for him?

I do wish he at least delayed the decision to leave ASU just a little longer. As an ASU alum, I hope ASU crushes Texas at NCAAs!

Joel Lin
1 month ago

Another reason why he won’t be coaching the US teams is DeSorbo & Nesty were chosen for the jobs because they were the most accomplished of late & therefore the most appropriate hires for the honor of being Team USA Olympic head coaches.

Not a Bob hater comment here; just a fair point that this tone is needlessly & inappropriately self indulgent of him.

Slow Breastroker
Reply to  Joel Lin
1 month ago

Bob gonna Bob

Dave
1 month ago

Good for Bob! Shouldn’t have to justify anything

Slow Breastroker
Reply to  Dave
1 month ago

But he did justify things.

Didn’t you read the article?

ecoach
1 month ago

There is no guarantee he would get selected as US coach. He is going as French coach. Now his US swimmers know he will be there.

Ranger Coach
1 month ago

Will Regan, assuming she makes the team, train with Nesty or DeSorbo at the pre-Olympic training camp? If Madden makes the team, I assume she’ll train with DeSorbo considering she trained with him in the past.

I dissagree
Reply to  Ranger Coach
1 month ago

no

Facts
1 month ago

I could’ve written this article in two words: Leon Marchand

Slow Breastroker
1 month ago

“And I have a feeling that in Paris, Leon might be a little bigger than he was last summer.”

He’s really confident.

Eagleswim
Reply to  Slow Breastroker
1 month ago

I don’t think that’s confidence in any future outcomes, he knows that Leon will be the premier athlete in one of the premier sports at a home Olympics. That’s obviously going to produce a much different environment than world championships in fukuoka, regardless of how the swimming goes

Andy
1 month ago

He will coach France because he loves money.

YGBSM
Reply to  Andy
1 month ago

Correct.

But just an observation …. not defending Bob, nor commenting on the whole US v. France thing here …. why is swimming any different than the other sports when it comes to money?

The football or basketball coach changes jobs (including big-time time schools) and so regularly, we barely notice when someone leaves their current gig for greener pastures – literally, money, pun intended. But the swimming coach does the same thing and they’re hammered for it. Disloyal, selfish, whatever.

Guess what? Swimming is also a legitimate sport. Obviously, not as many big money jobs, but there are some out there. Cal, Stanford, USC, Texas, Florida, Michigan, yep, pay big coin. So good for Bob, he got one of… Read more »

CuriousGeorge
Reply to  YGBSM
1 month ago

👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

Read More »