Michael Brooks Resigns as KING Head Coach After Club Sale

Jay Benner has been named the new head coach of the King Aquatic Club in Federal Way, Washington, replacing coach Michael Brooks, who was named to the same position last summer. The move is the latest change for the powerful Seattle-area club that includes several assistant coaches departing for the Central Area Aquatics Team, and the continuing fallout from accusations of grooming and sexual abuse by former World Record holder Ariana Kukors against former KING owner and CEO Sean Hutchison.

Benner comes the Bellingham Bay Swim Team on Washington’s northwest coast, where he was also named head coach just last summer. Benner is best known as the youth coach of 8-time Olympic medalist and American Record holder Nathan Adrian. He also coached 2008 U.S. Olympian Dana Kirk and is a member of the Pacific Northwest Swimming Hall of Fame.

KING won the combined and men’s team titles at the recent Federal Way Sectional Championships; Bellingham Bay finished 18th in the combined scoring.

Brooks came to Seattle from North Carolina, where he was previously the head coach of the North Carolina Aquatic Club and an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina. In a letter to the team, Brooks said that he thought the team would move forward faster from the Hutchison allegations, and painted a picture of infighting and chaos in the team.

Brooks’ Letter to the team

“The last five weeks have been terrible,” the letter reads. “After the earthquake allegations that started the whole thing, things have not gotten any better. For much of that time, you have not gotten any solid information about what has been happening, and in the absence of facts, rumors abounded.

I had assumed that we could relatively quickly get a plan up and running that would unify the group moving forward. That has obviously not happened. Frustrating delays contribute to the chaos in the system. The collection of data and numbers to do due diligence took much longer than I had expected, the work to produce the offer sheet took much longer than I had expected, meanwhile there were rumors flying everywhere that the Booster Club would kill any deal to ensure that Sean Hutchison would not get a cent (and I got many emails from parents arguing that very path); and there are serious personality and social clashes that have prevented various folks from working together and have resulted in the team splintering into multiple factions.

People have assumed that I knew much more than I actually did. I heard enough of the rumors to suspect that much was happening behind the scenes and outside of my view, which I could only really guess at from the results (especially regarding pools). Some key information about pools and coaching decisions I only discovered from reading other teams’ websites. Nobody was telling me anything (and I was told by a key booster member, that I had not established myself enough to build the kind of ties for people to trust me and be comfortable enough to talk to me and support me.) And I was in the same holding pattern that you all were in regarding a proposed sale: is it going to happen, and when, and what will be the details?

The result has been that, fed up with the uncertainty, several coaches and many families have decided to leave the club. This is obviously very disappointing to me and to all those who wanted to see King come out of this crisis whole and strong and stable. Even though I’ve only spent six months with the coaching staff, I had come to like and respect them and enjoy working with them to build a great team. It is disappointing to see friends and colleagues choosting to go in other directions. But no matter which direction people choose to go all are going to be seeing each other on deck numerous times each season, and “leaving mad” doesn’t help anyone now or down the road.

A few days ago, coach Doug Djang sent an email to the membership announcing a meeting to discuss a purchase of the team and his beaing the head coach. This seemed quasi-official, and the strong implication of his letter was that I was no longer in the picture – to the extent that several swimmers and parents asked me when I had quit. I have not said anything publicly about this letter until now because I did not want to undermine a colleague, I did not want a civil war on deck during the meet, and I have wanted as much as possible to keep the swimmers insulated from the disagreements and divergent interests of the adults.

However, you need to know that this is NOT the Terry Yen purchase plan that I have written about and that I fully support. To be blunt, Doug’s letter was calculated to undermine or circumvent that plan. He called the meeting on his own, not in his capacity as a King coach, and despite using the cyber version of the company letterhead. His ‘plan’ is contrary to what as head coach I consider to be the best interests of the club. His email to the team could have resulted in jeapordizing work already well underway; it most certainly made the situation and people’s impression of the situation even more unclear and chaotic: muddy waters made muddier.

What is happening now?

A group of coaches and swimmers will be leaving at the end of the month to join another local team [CAAT]. While I am sorry that they have decide to leave, and I wish that they would have chosen otherwise, I understand their decision and harbor no grudges.

I am working to ensure that there is a strong team, strongly coached and strongly supported by ownership, centered initially at KCAC with future options to expand to other local pools. I will not be here to lead it – I have decided to go back to my family in York [Pennsylvania]. However, I will help with the transition. With Terry Yen, I have been in serious talks with head coaching candidates of impeccable (and international) reputation, and I am solidifying the coaching staff and schedules. If you choose to stay with King – or whatever the new version of King happens to be called – you can trust that your kids will be well taken care of.

Sale

The letter concludes with administrative detail and an apology from Brooks to swimmers he coached directly for “not (coaching them) very well over the last month.”

Brooks references the sale of the club, which sources say was to Terry Yen, the parent of a KING swimmer who is the senior director of sales at semiconductr and telecommunications giant Qualcomm and was also previously listed as an advisor at IKKOS – Hutchison’s swimming technology company. The IKKOS website has been taken offline. Sources tell SwimSwam that the sales price of the club was in excess of half-a-million dollars.

CAAT is run by head coach Ken Spencer, who used to be Hutchison’s second-in-command at KING. He also owns the Aquatic Management Group, a company that manages several pools in the Seattle area used by both clubs. Hutchison is co-owner and co-founder of Aquatic Management Group, according to his LinkedIn profile.

We have reached out to KING and Djang for comment on the change, but as of posting have not received a response.

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Coach

The aftermath of an evil man like Sean Hutchison continues to negatively impact far too many innocent people.

Coach

The entire coaching staff with the exception of Doug Djang resigned

King Mom

As I stated earlier, this conversation is unfair to Doug. If you have so much knowledge about KING, the coaches, the families, and the swimmers I would assume you know us. I would also hope that you have the integrity to act with class and compassion for everyone involved. The important issues to focus on are the hard working and dedicated kids that we are hurting by continuing this senseless drama. Kids who want to swim on a team they have known and loved for years. These kids and families do not have any connection with Sean. KING no longer has any connection with Sean. It is time for everyone to move forward with grace and sportsmanship and cheer for… Read more »

Brendan R

It would seem Djang is doing some shady stuff. I hope they sort this all out for the kids sakes

SWIMFAMILY

Why make slanderous comments on something you have no knowledge of? There are many swimmers at King who need to move forward; rebuild; compete. Not worry or stress over what they have no control over. Let it go. Move on.

Coach

Because I have far more knowledge than you….nothing slanderous on my part

KINGmom

Considering Doug Djang was the ONLY King coach that remained loyal to the kids and families currently on the team, he is essentially the reason that the team still exists at all. With new ownership and a new head coach, it appears that King is in the process of “righting the ship”. But please don’t speculate and attempt to tarnish the name of an amazing coach that held this team together when he likely could’ve moved on like the rest of the coaches.

Coach

Could there be a reason that Doug was the only remaining coach? Before you question the loyalty of 18 coaches that have been with the program as coaches and swimmers for many years, here are a few questions for you to consider: Was Doug loyal to the program while undermining The Head Coach on a regular basis? Was Doug loyal to the program when he declared himself head coach and organized a meeting while the team still had a head coach working to right the ship? Has Doug been loyal to the program while he has approached numerous local teams searching for employment? With no success Coaches moved on for a reason. I hope that Jay is able to right… Read more »

SWIMFAMILY

Then the head coach should have communicated ANYTHING to the families loyal to King…..weeks without any information is inexcusable. Isn’t that the head coaches job? This is just more mudslinging at a Coach who has remained because of the kids. Who is gone? The Head Coach……

NDB

Is he going back to the York Y?

Jim jones

1. Y coaches get paid very little. Why go back.
2. Coach Michael said he had taken the York y team to where he wanted it to go and there was nothing left to do.
3. John nelson, trained under Brooks, is an awesome coach.
4. Brooks said he was headed home to his family not team.
5. If Brooks decides to coach again, there are lots of teams that need a head coach in the mid Atlantic lsc and Maryland.

SwimSwamSwum

And I feel comfortable saying that there are many families who would love to see Brooks return to the YY.

AAAA

Michael’s wife and family live in York. He’s going back to his family. As stated above, York Y has a head coach who is doing really well.

Jeff_parent

I feel very confident speaking for others that as much as Coach Brooks did for our small team here in PA, we are very happy with Coach John and would rather not get into any debate on weather Coach Brooks should return

Mindbodyspirit

Are speaking for everyone? It’s a wonder if all feel this way. Not so sure.

NDB

@jeff_parent Tou are totally right. John has done an awesome job. I didn’t mean to stir the pot by asking if coach Brooks was returning to the y. I only asked because he said he would return home to York.

Hdhd

Yeah

Jim jones

Where does it say that? Why would he?

SwimmerJ

HDHD, how do you know this? Source? YY already has a head coach….

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder 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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