Dick Jochums, a long-time swimming coach whose athletes frequented major U.S. international teams for nearly four decades, died Friday at 81 years old.
Jochums placed a swimmer on every American team traveling to a major international event from 1968 to 2006, with the lone exception being the 1996 Olympics. His swimmers broke 25 world records and brought home 12 Olympic medals, including two golds. Jochums served as an assistant or head coach on eight U.S. national teams.
Jochums began his coaching career as an assistant at the University of Washington, where he had competed as a collegiate swimmer under John Tallman. He also worked as an assistant at Cal under the guidance of Pete Cutino before taking his first head coaching job at Cal State Hayward. After a stint at Long Beach State, he returned to the Pac-12 (then Pac-10) in 1978 to lead Arizona’s program. In 20 years at the college level, his teams tallied 12 top-10 finishes nationally.
He transitioned to the club level in 1995 and won three national titles with the Santa Clara Swim Club’s men’s team (1996-98) while earning 18 top-5 finishes. In 2007, he retired from full-time coaching with an impressive resume. Jochum’s swimmers combined to set seven NCAA records and 60 American records in total.
An early proponent of high-quality interval training, Jochums developed a reputation as a middle distance guru. Tim Shaw, recipient of the 1975 James E. Sullivan Award for the nation’s top amateur athlete, once simultaneously held world records in the 200, 400, 800, and 1,500 freestyle. Jochums coached the last club team to set a world record in 1975 when his Long Beach Swim Club quartet of Rex Favero, Bruce Furniss, Shaw, and Steve Furniss lowered the global standard in the 4×200 free relay.
At the 1975 World Championships, Jochums’ swimmers topped the podium five times. Shaw racked up three gold medals, Greg Jagenburg won two, and Steve Furniss added one. But Jochums’ impact was perhaps felt most the following year at the 1976 Olympics, where he put seven swimmers on the U.S. men’s team. Five of them — Shaw, Bruce Furniss, Dan Harrigan, Steven Gregg, and Jack Babshoff — won medals in Montreal.
During the next Olympic cycle, he trained a pair of medal contenders in Bob Jackson and Jagenburg, but the U.S. ultimately boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. Jochums also mentored 1984 Olympic medalists George DiCarlo and Peter Evans as well as 2000 Olympic medalist Tom Wilkens.
Jochums has received several honors recognizing his contributions to the sport. In 1974, he was named Coach of the Year by the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA). Thirty years later, he was inducted into the ASCA Hall of Fame. Jochums was also chosen for the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2017. In 2019, he was selected into the Aquatic Capital of America Hall of Fame located in Long Beach along with the Furniss brothers.