Legendary USC, U.S. Olympic swim coach Peter Daland passes away at age 93

Peter Daland, the longtime coach of the USC Trojans and two-time Olympic coach for USA Swimming, has passed away at the age of 93 due to Alzheimer’s disease, according to the University.

Daland coached at the University of Southern California for 35 years, from the late ’50s until 1992, winning 9 NCAA Championships in that time. He’s still the only coach ever to win all three major national championships: the NCAA championship, the AAU men’s championship and the AAU women’s championship. He won 14 AAU titles with the USC men and 2 with the women of the L.A. Aquatic Club.

Daland also coached the American Olympic team in two different Olympiads. He led the U.S. women’s program at the 1964 Olympics, helping the team win 15 total medals out of the 24 given out in all. He then led the U.S. men at the 1972 Olympics, aiding Mark Spitz‘s record-setting 7-gold, 7-world-record performance.

His career numbers are staggering. His Trojans went 318-31-1, including 20 undefeated seasons in his 35-year tenure. His teams racked up 93 individual NCAA titles and over 150 wins at the Pac-10 Championships.

A true giant in the history of the sport, Daland is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the American Swim Coaches Hall of Fame, and the pool of USC’s new Uytengsu Aquatics Center is named in his honor.

Athletes, coaches and administrators across the sport have responded to the news with effusive praise for Daland’s long and storied career. Below are several notable tributes from those who knew Coach Daland:

USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus: “Coach Peter Daland was, without question, a giant in the sport of swimming. The life he led, the many he positively impacted and the contributions he made are unmatched. Coach Daland carried himself in a manner that brought respect from everyone he met and for every institution he represented, including USA Swimming. The American swimming family and the international swimming community have unfortunately lost one of our sport’s most iconic figures.”

Current USC Trojan head coach Dave Salo: “The world of swimming has lost one of its most progressive minds. Personally, I have lost a great and close personal friend. Peter was instrumental in teaching me the championship process. He was about relationships and driving the process to championship performance through team work.  As the current USC head coach, I have tried to carry on many of Peter’s traditions. For instance, I spec out the championship meet the way Peter always did, I remind our athletes like Peter did how important timeliness is and we continue to foster an environment where our alumni are celebrated guests on our deck as they always were when Peter was coaching here.”

John Naber, winner of 5 Olympic medals, 4 of them gold, and 10 NCAA titles under Daland: “The sport lost a great man, and I lost a dear friend.  I shall always be grateful to Coach Daland for his ability to push me outside my comfort zone.  He was a rarity in college coaching, because he was equally concerned with his team’s academic and social growth as he was with his swimmers’ athletic accomplishments.  He knew every swimmer’s name, academic major and the names of family members and girlfriends.  Although many of his swimmers achieved international acclaim, he never altered his style to accommodate any one individual.  When Coach Daland was on deck, the pool at USC held no stars, only squad members.  He made it a point to address each swimmer by name at least once per workout.  He wanted his swimmers to be self-reliant, responsible and as good as they could possibly be in all aspects of life.  He often pushed his swimmers to try off events and he challenged his teams to live up to the standards set by prior teams.  He brought a wealth of knowledge and understanding on how to get the most out of his teams, and his swimmers repaid him with great admiration, loyalty and respect.”

Bruce Furniss, Olympic gold medalist, former world record-holder and one of four brothers to swim for Daland: “Peter Daland was a giant. He was to swimming what John Wooden was to basketball.  He cared deeply about you as a swimmer and as a person, and he did it in both a loving way and a strong parental way.  He brought his East Coast pedigree and prestige to USC, and he proved to be the bridge between the sport’s pioneer coaches and today’s modern-era coaches.  I am so glad I came to USC and swam for him.  But maybe the best times we had were these past 10 or 15 years when we would get together, he would tell me about his life and we would laugh nostalgically about the good old days.”

From USC’s press release on the subject:

“In lieu of flowers, Daland’s family requests that donations be made to the Peter Daland Endowed Head Swimming Coach’s Chair to endow the men’s swimming head coach’s position (c/o Ron Orr, USC Athletic Department, Heritage Hall, Los Angeles, Calif. 90089-0602).”

Daland leaves behind his wife, whom he had been married to for almost 50 years, along with 5 children and 8 grandchildren. There will be a private memorial service for immediate family, but a public memorial service will take place at a future date, according to USC.

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Tas Pepito
8 years ago

I met Peter in 1972 while attending USC. Peter and then assistant coach Robbie Orr gave me the opportunity to become involved with USC swimming. I was also a young inexperienced head coach of a local YMCA age group program at that time and wanted to find a way to develop my skills. I approached Peter one day and he gave me the thumbs up to attend both practices and meets. I remember that on a few rare occasions, he would call me up and ask that I conduct and write weekend workouts for the team (an experience I still cherish to this day). He always treated me as part of the team, and as a result I am still… Read more »

Don Watson
8 years ago

Peter always exhibits the qualities of a true gentleman. He was an intelligent, ethical, and caring individual who was a natural leader as shown by his long successful coaching career. . One of the highlights of my coaching career was when my wife Jan and I accompany Peter and Ken Treadway on a trip to Barcelona for the European Swimming Championships in 1970. Whenever we met over the years we talked about this special trip, Jan and my thoughts and prayers are with his family at Peter’s passing.

james m. perry
8 years ago

peter daland grew up in a great old victorian house on providence road in wallingtord. pa., near Swarthmore, with his brother Benjamin (my friend) and a sister whose name I can’t remember. I think all 3 were adopted. Peter was something of a debutante chaser. He’d pack his tuxedo and some clothes and head for parties as far south as Charleston — on his bike! I remember the day he and 2 of his friends got on the train and rode into town to enlist for the duration. his father, eliot, designed the first b-1 bomber.

8 years ago

I met Peter in 2001, right after I moved to Florida from Germany. I still remember our first encounter during the ISHOF Induction of that year. I know that I still have an accent, but 13 years ago my English wasn’t good at all. Peter being his polite and sweet self, commented on my English at the end of our conversation by saying: “It is amazing. You have no accent at all!” My response was: “Peter, you must feel that way because you are married to a German woman.” And we laughed. This little story had been an inside joke between us ever since.
Over the years Peter shared some great stories with me about his experience travelling to… Read more »

Chuck Knoles
8 years ago

Peter Daland was amazing man- a renaissance man. Not only was he amazing to coach opposite from- having an amazing panache at winning college dual meets, PAC-10 Championships and NCAA titles. But, he always took time to speak to young coaches like me about the importance of the history of swimming and its importance and unsurpassed impact it has had in our society. He was an author, an historian, a father, a coach, a friend, and a champion of our sport.

He was the eternal mentor helping produce an incredible number of Olympic medalists, NCAA champions and American and World record-holders. However, the most impressive impact Peter had on the sport of swimming is the unbelievable number of his swimmers… Read more »

8 years ago

I was fortunate to be able to have lunch with Coach Daland when I first started coaching. Six hours later and a half eaten plate of food later, I had to get out on deck.

The man could tell a story. Amazing speaker, great leader, and he inspired me to adopt a few traditions and methods of dealing with a TEAM.

Daland. SMASH.

Steve Chappell
8 years ago

Peter was an unofficial godfather to my sister and me, and I was in awe of his abilities as a coach and as an ambassador for the sport of swimming, world-wide. He was a gracious man whose coaching style was focused and quietly powerful withput resorting to screaming and bullying (I had a lot of coaches who could have taken lessons from Peter). What a great life, with great achievements. My thoughts are with Ingrid and his whole family.

Chia Pet
8 years ago

Very sad news. The entire swimming community lost a great one today.

Rest in peace, Coach, and Fight On!

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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