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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6 years ago

What a man and role model for up and coming coaches!

6 years ago

God bless him and his family. I love learning about the legends of the sport.

Lane Four
6 years ago

HUGE LOSS. HUGE. Rest in peace you wonderful, wonderful man. You will be missed more than you will ever know.

Brad Flood
6 years ago

Our sport lost one of the original “Great Ones”, of all time, with the passing of Coach Daland. He was a fabulously succesful coach, true gentleman, great mind, incredible motivator and the TOTAL historian of the sport of swimming from its’ origins through recent modern times. No one knew the intimate facts of our origins and the total intricacies of the development of this great sport like Peter Daland. Every meeting with him was a lesson, I always left them with knowledge and facts I would have never possessed had I not paused to speak with this wonderfully gregarious friend to ALL.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Daland’s family and former athletes. God speed Peter, the mold… Read more »

Chia Pet
6 years ago

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

Rest in peace, Coach, and Fight On!

Steve Chappell
6 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.

6 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.

Chuck Knoles
6 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 »

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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