Competitor Coach of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based coach who has risen above the competition. As with any item of recognition, Competitor Coach of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one coach whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a coach who was clearly in the limelight, or one whose work fell through the cracks a bit more among other stories. If your favorite coach wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.
Coach of the Month, Coach of the Year, Coach of the Decade. Even those don’t go far enough back.
Eddie Reese has been a swim coaching legend for as long as many of us can remember. He ended his storied head coaching career this month with his NCAA-record 15th team title, in a year where the Texas swimmers showed up in full force. No other coach in history has won more than 11 swimming & diving team titles.
The Texas men won two relay events this year, but no other swimming events. The depth of the Longhorns was what carried the day. Through top-notch recruiting and great athlete development, Reese’s program produced 20 individual scorers, with every single swimmer on the NCAA roster scoring points. That included 16 swimmers and four divers.
In addition, Texas had to scratch three swimmers with times seeded to score, just to get under the NCAA roster cap. Texas ultimately had 26 swimmers and four divers earn NCAA invites, a remarkable accomplishment for any program.
On the heels of his 15th team title, Reese announced his retirement, though he’ll remain in his role through this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and will remain in a “coach emeritus” role after that. In his retirement press conference, Reese suggested that that role would continue to be hands-on with coaching practices.
“I’ve said for years that if I can just go to practice and not go to meets, I could coach ‘til I’m 100,” Reese said. “So as long as my mind is good, my jokes are good, I’m going to keep doing it.” After a pause, he added “My jokes are always good.”
Coach Reese’s iconic wit makes even his press conferences must-see TV. Even off-camera and off-the-record, Reese is a joy – honest, funny, humble, self-deprecating, and most of all, always focused on his athletes. We captured some of Reese’s best witticisms in this video compilation yesterday.
Perhaps most impressive about Reese’s run, though, is that at his retirement, the accolades from alumni, fans, fellow coaches, and swimming observers have focused less on Reese’s NCAA successes and more on his team culture and the care he had for each and every athlete as a person.
Reese has consistently said he doesn’t talk about winning – though Texas did enough of it in his 43 years to make up for any lack of oratory. He summed up his admirable coaching philosophy in his press conference:
“That’s one of our mottos as a team: Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. That takes care of everything else.”
Swimming has been lucky to have Eddie Reese.
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