Former Auburn Head Coach Gary Taylor Joins Virginia Staff As Associate Head Coach

The University of Virginia has hired Gary Taylor to fill the vacant spot left on its coaching staff left in the wake of former associate head coach Blaire Anderson leaving to take over as the Director of Swimming at Texas A&M University.

This marks Taylor’s return to college swimming after a three year absence. He was the head coach at Auburn for three seasons, before “mutually agreeing to part ways” with the Tigers after neither team scored at the 2021 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. Shortly thereafter, he was announced as the new head coach of the Cavalier Aquatics club team based out of Charlottesville, which is also where Virginia is located.

Taylor and Virginia head coach Todd DeSorbo worked together as assistant coaches at NC State before both got programs of their own. DeSorbo was with the Wolfpack from 2011 through 2017, while Taylor was there from 2012 through 2018.

Taylor built his reputation as a distance coach at NC State. In six seasons, he coached 11 swimmers to NC State school records and 97 to all-time top 10 performances as the lead coach for the school’s distance group. In 2017-2018, NC State was the only school with top three finishers in both the men’s and women’s 1650 freestyles at the NCAA D1 Swimming & Diving Championships. That included men’s champion Anton Ipsen.

While his tenure at Auburn didn’t come with those same lofty results, Taylor found more success at the club level with Cavalier Aquatics. Specifically, he has been the primary coach of US National Team member Thomas Heilman, who won a gold medal on the American 400 medley relay at the 2023 World Championships.

He also finished 16th in the 100 fly and 4th in the 200 fly at only 16 years old.

While Heilman was already a talented age grouper before Taylor’s arrival in Charlottesville, Taylor’s presence has grown Heilman’s versatility and pushed him toward the top of the international ranks.

While sources at Virginia say that it hasn’t been decided yet whether Taylor will keep coaching Heilman during his senior season of high school, Taylor is expected to keep some role with the Cavalier Aquatics program. Heilman is verbally committed to swim at Virginia beginning fall 2025 as part of their best-in-the-nation recruiting class.

Prior to NC State, Taylor spent four years as the distance coach at Florida State, including coaching 2012 ACC Freshman of the Year Juan Sequera; three years with the Dynamo Swim Club in Atlanta; and six years with the Twin Cities Swim Team in Minnetonka, Minnesota. He swam collegiately at Minnesota, including as a member of their 1998 Big Ten Championship meet, graduating in 2001.

Virginia Staff Changes

As of Tuesday, the staff has one fewer coach than it did last season.

Current coaching staff:

  • Todd DeSorbo – head coach
  • Tyler Fenwick – senior associate head coach
  • Gary Taylor – associate head coach
  • Jake Shrum – associate head coach
  • Courtney Caldwell – assistant coach
  • John Carroll – assistant coach
  • Josh Arndt – diving coach

Besides Anderson, Joe Bonk departed this offseason to become an assistant coach at Northwestern.

The Virginia women are the four-time defending NCAA Champions and five-time defending ACC Champions. Last year’s title run included record-setting performances by sisters Gretchen and Alex Walsh.

The Virginia men finished 5th out of 11 teams at the ACC Championships and 17th at the NCAA Championships, led by a 4th-place finish in the 100 breaststroke from senior Noah Nichols.

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SwimSwam Commenter
20 days ago

As someone who has been coached by Gary and followed his career a lot of the negative comments are differences in prospectives in coaching strategies. Not every coach is successful at every program, not every coach’s style is accepted by every athlete. Even Nick Saban suffered when he went to Miami. Before everyone trolls the man, try to recognize that there are detractors in every program. Also understand that the people that have positive experiences aren’t lurking in the comment section of SwimSwam. Congrats to Gary and UVA. Go Hoos.

Banana Peel
Reply to  SwimSwam Commenter
20 days ago

Directors don’t mean anything. Gary is married to the Director of the Y in which she works. Hopefully Todd will keep a close eye on Gary and everything will be good. We all have to hope for the best.

IUfan
20 days ago

Did anyone in this comment section swim for him at NC State? Appears he isn’t a great leader but was he different as an assistant? Hoping the best for the UVA swimmers

Water Tiger
21 days ago

As a former swimmer under Gary Taylor, this article is a huge blow for the swimming community. I will be the first to say that he is a swimming mastermind. He is incredibly knowledgeable about every facet of the sport and knows how to train his athletes to produce the desired results in the pool. He has trained several national champions and high-level athletes – there is no doubt that he is qualified for the job.

But judging from my experience at Auburn, his skills and expertise do not extend outside of the science of training and the sport of swimming. I strongly believe he lacks the crucial social skills (and morals) necessary to create, build, and maintain healthy… Read more »

Flash
Reply to  Water Tiger
21 days ago

Hopefully UVA’s athletic department has better systems in place than those at Auburn in order to protect athletes from this kind of behavior. Best of luck to UVA.

Big10!!
Reply to  Water Tiger
20 days ago

Auburn makes me laugh. Alumn run the athletic department and are doing a fantastic job of running it into the ground.

Looking at the Auburn team it wasn’t Gary that caused the poor outcome. If anything it looks like he cleaned up the prior regimes mess and brought in the talent that produced the last few years. Lot of kids were on scholarships that had no business being at a program that expected to compete for titles.

swimapologist
Reply to  Big10!!
20 days ago

Did Br*tt Ha*ke leave a hot steaming mess in Auburn? Absolutely.

Was Gary Taylor the right guy to clean it up? Absolutely not.

Br*tt and Gary are cut from the same cloth. They’re not exactly the same, but they fit in the same bucket of coach. Thinking that Gary would be able to clean up Brett’s mess was a mistake by whoever made that hiring decision. Maybe they didn’t know who Gary was…but that’s a failure by the hiring person.

Auburn didn’t score his last year of NCAAs. He can blame whoever he wants, but you don’t survive as the head coach at Auburn with 0 points at NCAAs. There’s no two ways around that.

Big10!!
Reply to  swimapologist
20 days ago

You mean during COVID when the University had stricter guidelines than most and wouldn’t let them train on campus?

Concerned Parent
Reply to  Big10!!
20 days ago

This is incorrect! Many of his own recruits left as well!

Former Auburn fan
Reply to  Big10!!
20 days ago

It was a 100% Gary. That year the two other power 5 hires were Sergio at VT and Nesty at UF. Both of them did much better than Gary. Sergio went to a school with no history of swimming and turned it into a top 10 team while Gary destroyed a blue blood swimming school . Imagine Auburn had they hired Sergio

Big10!!
Reply to  Former Auburn fan
20 days ago

If you know, you know

Auburn swimmer
21 days ago

As a former auburn swimmer who spent years under this man and now reading the comments. The people who did not experience the Gary Taylor era, you cannot say anything, the man was not the way he was for accountability, you were seen as points and nothing more, if you dare even question one of his methods he would blow up, couldn’t even confide in the other coaches cause they would go tell Gary, especially if was to do with Gary, many swimmers under him struggled with mental health. It was a toxic environment and I mean everyone on the team disliked him. I have so many incidents that I know about involving that man, and I hope they get… Read more »

TX Swammer
Reply to  Auburn swimmer
21 days ago

Not to discredit you but a head coach deserves to know what’s going on with his team. His assistants did a good job by coming to him with team concerns/issues.

Former Auburn fan
Reply to  TX Swammer
20 days ago

A head coach deserves to know what’s going on with his team but not if he goes and blows up and targets swimmers who go with concerns to other coaches

Weagle Weagle
Reply to  Auburn swimmer
21 days ago

I think more and more people are speaking up and sharing their stories in so many different channels. I think it is only a matter of time before things unfold and the dominos fall.

swammer
Reply to  Auburn swimmer
21 days ago

Same with the swimmers from Cavalier Aquatics. Within a year of coming into power as head coach, the senior group lost more than half its swimmers

XXX
Reply to  swammer
21 days ago

This is not true.

gridlock24
Reply to  XXX
19 days ago

Not only is it true that more than half of the senior group quit, a new swim team was formed shortly after Gary came on board comprised of Cavalier Aquatics dropouts. Slowly, one by one, they moved to BASS. Beaten down, discouraged, and on the verge of quitting, the swimmers of BASS were slowly built back up again by the amazing and supportive coaches there. What Gary did to a close knit group of swimmers who had been together since they were very young is so sad.

SwimMonkey
Reply to  swammer
20 days ago

Yep, we left Cavalier Aquatics because Gary is the most arrogant, dismissive, and unreasonable coach we have ever encountered. He ruined swimming for my child who was a lifelong swimmer. I had multiple meetings with Gary and he doesn’t listen to anyone. It’s his way or the highway and he could not care less about the feelings of his swimmers. Well, except for one.

Rick Paine
22 days ago

Great hire, great coach and great person

TBA
22 days ago

I feel like a lot of people seem to forget that Gary had 2 successful gigs as a college assistant prior to the Auburn job.

Ex-coach
Reply to  Braden Keith
21 days ago

I’m sure this is the case in some instances, but much of it could be completely out of the coaches control. Today there are a lot of politics at the collegiate level. AD’s have an agenda, Donors and Alumni have an agenda, competitors have an agenda, etc. Not as simple as show up coach, create a great culture and be a good leader….you could do all of this and still be blamed for a variety of things because it fits someone else’s agenda.

samulih
Reply to  Ex-coach
21 days ago

You can also be the best coach in the world but with not the right recruits you might ever get anywhere…

Expatswimmer
22 days ago

I expected them to look for another female assistant after Blaire left.

oxyswim
Reply to  Expatswimmer
22 days ago

They still have one more spot on staff open so they might. Won’t be at an associate HC level though.

Rust Cohle
22 days ago

My last year at Auburn was Gary’s first year as head coach. He and I never had any direct issues, but I had plenty of issues with how he went about leading the team. I’m not sure if he was intentionally overcompensating by trying to fill Brett’s shoes or if he just got drunk on the power of being the head coach, but GT put on a real masterclass of what not to do when you’re handed the keys. The decisions he made starting literally from Day 1 just seemed completely backwards. Don’t get me wrong, Brett had his faults, but at least he would try and form connections with his athletes. Every single interaction I had with Gary felt… Read more »

Ex-coach
Reply to  Rust Cohle
21 days ago

Is it possible that he was working to create a winning culture, but had to go against the grain and be the opposite of Brett? The problem I have with today’s environment is that coaches are measured and paid based on performance, not feelings. If you have a bunch of athletes that aren’t committed, party too much, are failing out of school, but are on scholarship how does a coach handle it? Coaches can’t fire athletes. I don’t envy coaches today where any athlete that doesn’t like something can say whatever they want and coaches can’t defend themselves. I don’t know what happened with Gary at Auburn, but looking from a distance and speaking with a few other SEC coaches,… Read more »

Wheeler Walker Jr.
Reply to  Braden Keith
21 days ago

We are only at the tip of the iceberg in the compensation field and what will be extensive litigation, but another notch against swimmers. I don’t think they’re gonna be getting the guaranteed contracts that other athletes will. as a cog in a major organization almost anybody’s replaceable or can be fired.

Sarcastic
Reply to  Ex-coach
21 days ago

There’s a difference between one or two people having an issue vs people transferring and “graduating early” to avoid being coached by you. I can promise (as a swimmer turned coach) the stuff that was said to athletes was not creating a “winning culture”. Your athletes shouldn’t be walking on eggshells around you.

Former Auburn fan
Reply to  Ex-coach
20 days ago

If your trying to create a winning culture how do you go from scoring at ncaa to being a bottom feeder at your conference and not scoring at ncaas

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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