Kentucky Hires Illinois State’s Caitlin Hamilton as Associate Coach, Promotes Lieberman

New Kentucky head coach Bret Lundgaard is putting the finishing touches on his staff in Lexington.

The Wildcats hired former Illinois State head coach Caitlin Hamilton as their next associate coach on Thursday, two days after announcing the retention of head diving coach Ted Hautau, associate coach Jordan Lieberman, and diving graduate assistant Wu Chunting.

The hiring of Hamilton comes 11 days before the beginning of fall classes at Illinois State, leaving the program for now in the hands of 3rd-year assistant Sean Sullivan and 2nd-year diving coach Dallas O’Haver. Hamilton had spent four years leading Illinois State, a Division I school in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). Last year, the Redbirds broke 12 school records, including all five relay standards. They placed 3rd at the MVC Championships as Madyson Morse took home Swimmer of the Year honors.

“To be able to add a coach with the experience, proven track record and leadership skills that Caitlin has is an absolute steal,” Lundgaard said. “She has robust college swimming and coaching experience and will be a wonderful partner for myself, and the staff, as we strive to continue to learn and grow. Throughout the hiring process, Caitlin regularly articulated a motivation to positively influence student-athletes with a team of coaches who share a commitment to building a world-class environment based on values. I know she’ll quickly put her fingerprints on our program and these fortunate student-athletes.”

Prior to Illinois State, Hamilton also served as an assistant coach at Indiana (2017-19), IUPUI (2015-17), and Wyoming (2014-15). As a swimmer, she was a team captain and All-American at Purdue from 2009-13.

“I’d like to thank Bret for the opportunity to join the staff and team at Kentucky,” Hamilton said. “There is an obvious commitment to excellence from the athletes and administration all around. I’m excited for the future of the program and for the challenge of competing in the SEC.”

Hautau will continue to lead the diving program after overseeing operations for the past 15 seasons. He earned SEC Diving Coach of the Year honors in both 2015 (women) and 2021 (men).

“I am so fortunate to begin this exciting new chapter in Kentucky Swimming & Diving with Ted by my side,” Lundgaard said. “Ted is respected and admired in the swim and dive community by both his peers and student-athletes. He is an established diving coach who has the unique combination of character, compassion and competitive expertise. Our current and future student-athletes are fortunate to partner with him.”

Lieberman is being promoted from assistant to associate in his fourth season with the Wildcats. Lundgaard highlighted his work with rising sophomore Levi Sandidge, who became the program’s first-ever SEC champion in the men’s 1650 free last season as a freshman.

“Retaining Jordan was a priority of mine as I put together a high character staff with comprehensive competitive skillsets,” Lundgaard said. “He has done a phenomenal job connecting with our student-athletes and he is one of the bright up and coming coaches in our sport. While his influence in helping Levi [Sandidge] earn an individual SEC championship is notable, his expertise led to numerous student-athlete breakthroughs. Jordan will help us continue to develop this program as a destination for elite middle and distance swimming.”

Wu is entering her second season as a graduate assistant for the diving squad. She has captured gold medals at the World Junior Diving Championships, FINA Diving Grand Prix, Asian Diving Cup, FISU World University Games, and Chinese National Championships throughout her career.

“Cara brings a wealth of diving expertise and world-class competitive experience as a World University Games Champion and one of the top divers in China,” Lundgaard said. “I appreciate her care for our athletes’ mental and physical well-being and her wise approach to training, competing and recovering.”

On Wednesday, Marshall announced the addition of Bailey Bonnett, who spent the 2022-23 season as an assistant at Kentucky. She was not retained on the Wildcats staff along with Geena Freriks following the resignations of head coach Lars Jorgensen and associate coach Michael Camper earlier this summer. Before Lundgaard was hired, volunteer assistant Scott Stern also left Kentucky to join Cincinnati’s coaching staff.

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6 months ago

Lundgaard should have purged the entire swimming staff to clear out any remnants of toxic culture.

Illinois State Fan
6 months ago

Congratulations to Caitlin. She made a big impact at Illinois State, including hiring some great coaches. I sure hope Sean Sullivan gets a shot to serve as head coach. He’s a young coach with a bright future. He worked directly with a lot of Illinois’s top performers.

6 months ago

So well deserved for Caitlin! Such an amazing coach!

6 months ago

Associate is below assistant right? I wonder why she went from assistant > head coach > associate.

Reply to  swumd
6 months ago

Might make an assumption that’s supposed to be associate head coach, one step below head rather than the other way round.

Douglass Wharrram Fan Club
Reply to  swumd
6 months ago

Normally it goes:
Assistant->Associate->Associate Head

At least that’s how the pay goes

Reply to  swumd
6 months ago

It’s also Kentucky where they’re probably not fundraising to help pay for equipment or other swim supplies at a mid-major. Pool, resources, ability to attract more recruits, etc.

6 months ago

Slam dunk hires all around for Kentucky!

Caitlin is a successful head coach with big time college coaching experience. While programs have been grabbing first or second year coaches left and right, Caitlin brings impressive professional experience to Kentucky.

Lieberman has been crushing it at Kentucky and handled a previously challenging situation admirably. That men’s team is young and improving.

Don’t know Ted as well, but I’ve always heard great things.

6 months ago

“is an absolute steal” yeah it sure is to former athletes of hers, but such is this business….

Reply to  samulih
6 months ago

You can’t steal someone that’s looking at opportunities available.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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