Coley Stickels Leaves Alabama after 18 Months; Will be Replaced by Margo Geer

The University of Alabama swimming and diving team announced in a press release on Monday that head coach Coley Stickels had resigned in order to focus on training athletes for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo and other national and international competitions. Alabama has reached an agreement with Margo Geer who will take over the program as head coach after the 2021 Olympics, in which she is hoping to compete. In the interim, associate head coach Ozzie Quevedo will lead the men’s and women’s teams.

SwimSwam has reached out to the University of Alabama asking for more information about the timing of the resignation, or for insights into why Geer was chosen as the successor, but the school has not responded to that request.

“This was not an easy decision, but I’ve decided it is best to step down as head coach of the Alabama Swimming & Diving program,” said Stickels. “It’s been an honor to serve in this position at Alabama. After personal reflection, however, I need to reprioritize my time to concentrate on training athletes for national and international competition, including the upcoming Olympics. I wish the team all of the best going forward and know they are in good hands.”

Stickels arrived in Tuscaloosa in April 2019 from Indiana University, where he had been the associate head sprint coach for the Hoosiers. Prior to that, he was a club coach with Canyons Aquatic Club in California, training U.S. Olympian Abbey Weitzeil as a high schooler. Stickels coached the Crimson Tide during the 2019-20 season that was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic, and has Alabama to 2 wins (LSU and Kentucky) and 2 losses (Tennessee and Virginia) so far this season. During his tenure, 24 student-athletes qualified for the 2020 NCAA Championships and 22 earned a cumulative 57 All-America honors. At the 2020 SEC Championships, Alabama broke 23 school records and earned a combined 15 medals, placing 4th in the men’s standings and 7th in the women’s.

Geer, a 2015 World Champion and four-time Pan American Games gold medalist, has been a volunteer assistant coach at Alabama. Her only other coaching experience is from the 2016–17 season when she was a volunteer assistant coach at Ohio State. Geer is currently training for the Tokyo Olympics. She was a three-time NCAA champion the University of Arizona, winning the 50 free in 2013 and the 100 free in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 she was named Pac-12 Woman of the Year and was a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year. She plans to take over as Alabama’s next head coach at the conclusion of the 2021 Olympics.

Alabama’s athletics director Greg Byrne was the athletics director at the University of Arizona from 2010 through 2017. Geer was a swimmer there from 2010 through 2014.

The full announcement can be seen here:

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Coley Stickels has elected to resign from his position as head coach of the Alabama Swimming & Diving program to focus more of his attention on training athletes for Olympic and other national and international competitions.

“This was not an easy decision, but I’ve decided it is best to step down as head coach of the Alabama Swimming & Diving program,” said Stickels. “It’s been an honor to serve in this position at Alabama. After personal reflection, however, I need to reprioritize my time to concentrate on training athletes for national and international competition, including the upcoming Olympics. I wish the team all of the best going forward and know they are in good hands.”

Stickels joined the program in April of 2019, coaching all of the shortened 2019-20 season in addition to the fall portion of this year’s slate. Under his tutelage, a total of 24 student-athletes qualified for the 2020 NCAA Championships and 22 earned a total of 57 All-America honors. At the 2020 SEC Championships, Alabama broke 23 school records and earned a combined 15 medals.

Margo Geer, 2015 World Champion and four-time Pan American Games gold medalist, has been selected as the program’s next head coach. She will take the reins once her competitive career concludes as she is currently training for the 2021 Olympic Games. Geer, who also serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the Crimson Tide, is a 27-time All-American, winning three NCAA Championships while at Arizona and was the 2015 Pac-12 Woman of the Year and finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year. Associate head coach Ozzie Quevedo will serve as the interim head coach until completion of Geer’s swimming career.

All such employment contracts are subject to approval by The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

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GottaluvColey’smess
1 year ago

Webster needs to add “Coley” to the dictionary based on all his articles over time.
Coley can be used as an adjective (i.e. the ‘Coley’ effect). Coley could be used as a verb (i.e. “that coach Coleyed that boy after the race”). Coley can also be used as a noun (I.e. “don’t be such a Coley!”).
Either way, Coley has had an impact on the sport.

Rio-dives
1 year ago

#400

BAMA BACKER
1 year ago

Years ago at a clinic, I heard Don Gambril give some good advice to young coaches, ” only a foolish coach dates one of his subordinates and only an idiot dates two of them at the same time.”
Good luck Margo, surround yourself with quality people and you will be succesful.

Mata Hari
Reply to  BAMA BACKER
1 year ago

What exactly are you trying to say? Plus if you’re going to use Coach Gambril’s name to highlight a point it might have been better to have chosen or remembered something else he said many times. Like never date a subordinate, never sit down during a practice, never stop coaching and if he’d stayed in the sport long enough, he’d have added NEVER be on a cell phone during practice. That’s the coach Gambril I know, not the flippant quote that you slapped up there to be what sensational, before you encouraged Margo on her quest.

BollesAlum
Reply to  Mata Hari
1 year ago

You literally said the same thing as he said.

And I quote, your first example: “never date a subordinate”

WCNJCTNY
Reply to  BollesAlum
1 year ago

Right? LMAO. Mata is complaining about someone saying Gambril talked about dating a subordinate, then backs his argument by stating that Gambril said never date a subordinate. 2020 baby.

Mata Hari
Reply to  BollesAlum
1 year ago

That I did, but I didn’t embellish the statement… that’s what bothered me & that’s why I corrected the statement to reflect what coach would have said. It seems that people are want to sound sensational so that they get read… that in itself is an issue. Say what you have to say and let it stand. Go Margo would have been just fine… that other bs strung out there before had no correlation whatsoever.

BollesAlum
Reply to  Mata Hari
1 year ago

Ok but…what if it’s what he said? Historical revisionism? It’s not like he said it privately. He said it to a room full of coaches – so he obviously didn’t think it was too sensational to be attributed to him.

Concerned parent
Reply to  BAMA BACKER
1 year ago

Hmmmm…. Coley dated (and is now married to) a subordinate. Is there more to this story and why he resigned?

Name
Reply to  Concerned parent
1 year ago

So did Denny. Curious

CommonSense
Reply to  BAMA BACKER
1 year ago

I’m pretty sure though that even this hire has Coach worried about lack of experience for such a prominent team.

Guerra
Reply to  BAMA BACKER
1 year ago

Don Gambrill is a very wise man and everyone should heed his advice. I still got his book of workouts he and Jonty did back in the 1980s. They were far ahead of their time!

Don'tcrossthe river...
Reply to  Guerra
1 year ago

I would love to hear exactly what Don Gambrill thinks about this entire situation.

coach
Reply to  BAMA BACKER
1 year ago

I guess Coley missed that talk.

Aspiring Head Coach
1 year ago

As someone who has put in years of work to one day get to this level of coaching, this has to be the biggest slap-in-the-face to young coaches, like myself, who are paying their dues and doing all of the right things, only to see a story like this. Granted, Margo is a world class talent in the water. But that doesn’t always translate to success in the world of coaching. Even professional players in all kinds of sports have put in years of work into coaching before taking the next step as a Head Coach.

Frankly, seeing something like this take place discourages me from continuing in this profession because it shows that any world class athlete below… Read more »

SwimFan49
Reply to  Aspiring Head Coach
1 year ago

So, I get your disappointment, but I’m surprised you’re so surprised that this could happen in athletic coaching. There are countless examples across all sports, college and pro, where “younger,” less experienced candidates ascend to head coach faster than long-time assistants who have “paid their dues.” And news flash … this happens outside of coaching, too. There can be legitimate reasons for that and perhaps there are not so great reasons for that, but either way, isn’t this just adult life?

Yikes
1 year ago

You can take the coach out of IU, but you can’t take the IU out of the coach

Iswimaway
1 year ago

Coley has made it no secret he does not like coaching college programs and wants to own his own club which can support an Olympic caliber training group. He has mentioned this to numerous people for several years. With Covid killing programs left and right, I believe he used this window to get off of a ship that will be hitting an iceberg post season. This gives him time to gather elites and focus on 2021. Yes, he pisses off just about everyone, but his list of results is indisputable. Look for a club team with resources and vision to make him an offer soon. Canyons Aquatic now has two long course pools. Maybe he’ll head west once again.

SocalSwimFan
Reply to  Iswimaway
1 year ago

You are ill-informed. Along with their 6-lane 25 yard pool, CAC has LIMITED access to two 50ms which they share with Paseo Aquatics. Most teams don’t have the resources, especially in socal. That’s why you see team like Mission Viejo who pay for athletes who don’t train with them to represent them at national meets. Coley is a great coach but not the only one.

Stewie
Reply to  Iswimaway
1 year ago

Coley has no interest in being the head coach of a college program or of a club. He wants to coach a small hand-picked group of elite athletes. Will he get that opportunity? Perhaps. But no club or university should be under the illusion that he’s gonna change.

Last edited 1 year ago by Stewie
BTH
1 year ago

Some of similarities here with the Nets’ decision to bring in Steve Nash as head coach with no coaching experience.

Brooklyn also quickly brought on a 15-year NBA head coaching vet in Mike D’Antoni to help facilitate things. D’Antoni was actually Steve Nash’s coach in Phoenix for 5 years, which led to a NBA Coach of the Year award, 2 Western Conference finals appearances, 2 league MVPs for Nash.

Guerra
Reply to  BTH
1 year ago

I can see what you’re saying and I had this discussion with someone tonight about how important it was for Margo to make good hires if she was even going to have a chance to make this work. Unfortunately, this has Jill Sterkel/Texas situation written all over it…

HuntleyJones
Reply to  BTH
1 year ago

This isn’t a good analogy since Nash did, in fact, have paid coaching experience as an assistant for a number of years for the Warriors. Plus, he is nearly 20 years older than Geer and has been immersed in his sport much longer. Nash is more qualified for his position in this perspective, and you could argue that his credentials as an athlete make his hiring more justifiable; he is generally considered to be one of the top 20 or 30 greatest basketball players of all time.

I also think although being an NBA coach might be more difficult than being an NCAA head swim coach, the breadth of responsibilities–specifically logistically–are much greater for the latter.

Mark Pender
1 year ago

Has Margo made a statement yet? I double checked the university’s statement and didn’t see her acceptance, which is odd, isn’t it?! Shouldn’t she be saying stuff like: “Thank you very much for this honor, and everybody stay put”? A seasonable silence may not be recommended here. But really, knock ’em dead Margo!

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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