With the 2016 Summer Olympics coming to a close, it is never too early to begin speculation on the 2020 team. Coaching at the Olympic Games is one of the most underrated aspects of the entire competition- coaches make decisions on relays and help keep the athletes together as a team. They are also some of the most knowledgeable coaches in the world, with all of them usually having multiple swimmers on the Olympic team.
To be an Olympic Head Coach, coaches must meet all five of the following requirements:
- They must be a USA Swimming National Team staff member.
- They must be a United States citizen.
- The swimmers must be in good health, and “able to withstand the physical rigors of traveling with and working with the team.”
- They must be available for the entirety of the Games.
- They must have previous USA Swimming team leader or USA Swimming managerial experience at high level competitions, i.e. Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan Pac Championships.
The list of coaches who qualify must then submit an application to USA Swimming, which decides on the Olympic Head Coaches before the Trials begin. Assistant coaches are selected after the trials, based on their swimmer’s performances at the meet;. While several coaches could potentially qualify, here are the main competitors.
Note: we’ve made the assumption that the criteria for selection won’t change before Tokyo, and have left wiggle room where things could change in the next 3 years before a selection is announced.
Dave Durden, University of California Men’s Swim Team
Durden, who coaches Cal Aquatics and is the University of California’s men’s swim team coach, is coming off of a year where he was named to an Olympic assistant coaching spot and received ASCA coach of the year. His swimmers won seven medals in Rio, including three golds from backstroker Ryan Murphy. He has also recently added Missy Franklin to his list of athletes. Durden did come under fire while coaching the 2015 World Championship Team, specifically for his use of alternates in prelims that caused the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay to miss the finals. If he can continue his string of backstroke success with Murphy and Jacob Pebbly, as well as revive Missy’s swimming career to her 2012 form, he will have an excellent shot at an Olympic head coaching position.
Dave Marsh, SwimMAC
Dave Marsh was the head coach of the 2016 Women’s Olympic swim team, with his athletes winning eight medals in Rio. However, Marsh’s swimmers did experience turmoil over the summer- Tyler Clary and Cullen Jones both missed the team and subsequently retired from the sport. Cammile Adams was disqualified in prelims of the 200-meter butterfly, only to have it overturned on review. Ryan Lochte came under turmoil for his out of pool antics and for his underwhelming 200-meter individual medley swim. Anthony Ervin did become the oldest swimmer to win an individual gold medal at the age of 35, but it is highly unlikely Ervin’s career will include the 2020 Olympics. While Marsh is a superb coach, he may have a hard time earning a head coaching spot on the 2020 coaching staff.
Bob Bowman, Arizona State University
Bob Bowman is perhaps the most well-known coach in all of swimming, helping Michael Phelps win 23 career Olympic medals. Bowman was the men’s head coach for the 2016 Olympics, but that was more of a formality for Phelps. Bowman will not have Phelps on his list of Olympic swimmers for 2020, unless Phelps decides on another comeback. With Allison Schmitt as his only current Olympian training under him in his new position at Arizona State, Bowman might have a tough time garnering a head coaching position.
Teri McKeever, University of California Women’s Swim Team
Teri McKeever is the only woman coach to qualify for a potential Olympic coaching spot under current rules. McKeever, who coaches the Lady Golden Bears of California, has won three NCAA National Championships over her twenty years as coach. She has twice been an assistant Olympic coach, and in 2012 was named the head coach for the women’s Olympic team. McKeever was left off of the 2016 coaching roster, which caused an uproar as there were no women represented on the coaching staff. Pretending like the optics of that situation, and the ensuing public relations hit, won’t influence future decisions would be naive, and McKeever’s resume is as rich as any female coach in the country.
Jack Bauerle, University of Georgia
Jack Bauerle recently finished his 36th year as head coach of the Georgia women’s swimming and diving programs and 30th year as the men’s coach. In that time, he has coached 244 All-Americans and won five NCAA Championships. Bauerle also has experience on the international scene, coaching the 2008 women’s Summer Olympic team. His swimmers had a great showing in Rio, where he qualified Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland in the 400 individual medley and Gunnar Bentz in the 800 free relay. Allison Schmitt, a former Bulldog who now trains for Bob Bowman, also qualified. Kalisz could potentially add to his event lineup for Tokyo, and Pace Clark-among other Bulldogs- could have a shot at an Olympic spot. If Bauerle can add to his Olympic athlete list, he has potential as an Olympic head coach.
Ray Looze, Indiana University
Ray Looze had a year to remember in 2016, winning Big Ten coach of the year and being named to an assistant coaching position for the Olympic team. Three Indiana swimmers qualified; Lilly King in both breaststrokes events, Cody Miller in the 100-meter breaststroke, and Blake Pieroni in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. His swimmers won five medals, four of which were gold. He has international experience as well, having coached the 2015 World University Games, but would probably need a promotion to a World Championships team head coach in 2017 to really shore up his resume for an Olympic spot. Looze has carried on Indiana’s tradition as an NCAA powerhouse, and if he can add more American Olympians- half of his Olympic swimmers were foreign- he will have an outside shot at a head coaching position.
Gregg Troy, University of Florida
Gregg Troy has coached Florida University for over fifteen years, coaching 68 Olympians and over 550 All-Americans. Before he took over at Florida, he coached the storied Bolles School in Jacksonville. He has been an assistant coach for the Olympic team twice, and in 2012 was the men’s Olympic head coach. In 2016, Elizabeth Beisel qualified in the 400-meter individual medley and Caeleb Dressel qualified for the Olympic team in the 100-meter freestyle, where he also won a gold medal as a leg on the 400-meter freestyle relay. However, Troy did not qualify any other Florida swimmers to the US Olympic Team. Troy does have some intriguing young talent in Maxime Rooney and Chandler Bray- both national high school record holders- he will most likely have to add more names to his list of potential U.S. Olympians to have a shot at a 2020 head coaching position.
Qualified third-party candidates, with the shortfalls they’d have to clean up to be chosen:
- Mark Schubert, Golden West Swim Club/Mission Viejo- Former U.S. National Team Director (would need to re-establish reputation in new role at Mission Viejo)
- Dave Salo, University of Southern California- Women’s head coach for 2015 World Championships (under fire recently for coaching several athletes caught up in Russian doping scandal)
- Eddie Reese, University of Texas – 2004, 2008 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team Head Coach, among a mountain of other credentials (Reese will be 79 years old by the time the 2020 Olympics roll around, and while he’s showing that he’s still one of the best swim coaches to have ever walked the earth, his absence from the Rio staff indicates that he’s probably most interested in focusing on his personal swimmers at this point of his career rather than managing the entire Olympic Team).
- Greg Meehan, Stanford University – 2016 Olympic assistant coach (our readers have pointed out that Meehan is an obvious choice, given that he will be coaching at least three Olympic gold medalists heading into Tokyo – Katie Ledecky, Lia Neal, and Simone Manuel. He’s currently not eligible having never been a head coach of a Worlds team, but because of the interest in his potential, we’ve added him here. If he is the head coach of the women’s World Championship team in 2017, he becomes the front-runner as Tokyo women’s head coach. He’ll probably be named the 2017 Worlds head coach if for no other reason than to leave that option open to USA Swimming/the USOC, but until that time, he’s not eligible.)
Men’s head coach: Dave Durden
Women’s head coach: Teri McKeever