Setting the Field: Who Will the U.S. Choose as Assistant Coaches for the Paris 2024 Olympics?

2024 U.S. OLYMPIC TRIALS

With five of the nine days of the 2024 US Olympic Trials done and gone, we are essentially at the mid-way of the meet.

With the first doubles being confirmed on Wednesday night, this is good timing to start projecting which coaches might make up the U.S. Olympic coaching staff.

Already Assigned

There are a bunch of criteria to be eligible for head coach of the U.S. team. The good news is that with Anthony Nesty (men) and Todd DeSorbo (women) already named, we can ignore most of those things.

But they’re not the only ones eliminated. Another obvious choice, Bob Bowman, has already been named to the French coaching staff. With Regan Smith, Paige Madden, Drew Kibler, and Chase Kalisz on the team already, he would’ve been an easy pick for the staff, if he weren’t already committed to France.

With how Sandpipers have raced at this meet, and with Katie Grimes already on the open water team, I’m going to assume for the sake of this analysis that Ron Aitken will be named the head coach of the open water squad.

Criteria

After some experiments with a “combined staff,” the US has gone back to 3 coaches with the men’s team and 3 coaches with the women’s team. That means we have to consider who might make sense on which staff – there’s a chance that the 4th coach for the men’s team has a better resume than the 3rd coach on the women’s team, but that 4th coach with only male qualifiers might not get the edge.

There’s a long list of criteria that reads like any generic job description, but the key ones are being on USA Swimming’s Long List (which is not public), be at least 25 years old, being a U.S. Citizen and a Coach Member of USA Swimming, and not being a USA Swimming official.

Then there’s a bunch of requirements of having to be a coach on a staff at a recent major international meet, primary coach of an athlete on a recent big international team, or be a coach of record/primary coach of an athlete member of the 2024 Olympic Team. In practice, the latter of these is the standard that matters – no coach is going to be chosen as an assistant without a swimmer on the team.

Then there’s the practical – coaches have to be able to coach more than just their athletes. With only eight coaches on the team (though they sometimes sneak along a bonus), and up to 52 athletes, coaches are responsible for executing workouts for other coaches’ athletes. That tends to give preference to certain levels of experience and personality types.

Swimmers with more entries also tend to get preference. If there are two coaches with one swimmer each, and one of those swimmer’s might score 3-4 medals, that coach usually gets preference.

The Candidates

These are the primary coaches (as best we know) of athletes who have qualified through the first five days of the meet. We’ve focused on the head coach of the program, though we know there are lots of complexities within programs about who coaches whom.

Plus either Matt Kredich for Erika Connolly or Matt Kredich for Catie DeLoof (who has spent time in both Knoxville and Ann Arbor in the last year), pending the 100 free swim-off.

So one thing becomes pretty clear from the list: they made good choices for head coaches. Those guys put a lot of swimmers on the team.

Some other names jump out pretty clearly:

The Obvious

Ray Looze has to be on this staff. He was on the 2016 and 2020 staffs, and he’s got four swimmers on the team. He’s a flex, could be on the men’s or women’s staff.

I think that Chris Plumb is a clear front-runner to be on the staff. Besides putting two swimmers on the team, USA Swimming currently has a ‘club coach relationship’ problem. If they skip Plumb (remember that they skipped Aitken in 2021), there is going to be an absolute eruption. With so much youth on this team, they need a club coach.

I think that Dave Durden has to be a front-runner to be on this staff as well, with four men and a woman under his umbrella. He might hand off to Marsh, but let’s play this straight for now.

So that’s three spots that look secure at the moment. Durden probably goes men, Looze probably goes women, and Plumb probably goes men (though there’s flexibility there).

But Who Joins Them?

There are still 8 finals left, so a lot more swimmers are going to be named to the team before the end of the meet. But among the current candidates, these are the ones that make the most sense to me:

  • Greg Meehan – While Torri Huske is his only qualifier right now, he was the 2021 Olympic head coach and so understands the world that he’s walking into. Huske also has four events so far, with more possible.
  • Chris Lindauer – A relative newcomer to this group, Guiliano winning the 100 free on Wednesday is big for Lindauer’s candidacy. That gives Guiliano at least five races to swim in Paris,

A few names are probably not in consideration right now.  Coaches with one relay swimmer (Coley Stickels) or one runner-up qualifier (Braden Holloway), probably aren’t front runners, though remember that DeSorbo and Holloway coached together for a long time at NC State, and that connection and comfortable working relationship might make DeSorbo push for Holloway’s inclusion for a whole-staff perspective.

I also am not sure Eddie Reese is going to go, in spite of having two on the team and being one of the most experienced coaches in existence. At 82, Reese is slowing down, and the length of the trip including training camps is going to be tough for him.

There isn’t a ton of obvious results that could catapult anybody up this list. I think there’s a scenario where they could justify taking an assistant coach who is an assistant coach – Wyatt Collins from Texas, Dave Marsh from Cal, or even one of the Virginia assistants if Alex Walsh also gets on the team.

That leaves one spot kind of wide open. If there is pressure to bring a female coach, Carol Capitani is the candidate right now. I think Herbie Behm, if we decide he’s the “Primary Coach” for Manuel and Held, makes a lot of sense for that spot too (you can never have too many sprint coaches).

The existing seven coaches that we feel confident about above have a wide breadth of reputation for coaching in terms of stroke specialties too. There are sprint coaches, distance coaches, breaststroke coaches, and some who can do them all. So that really makes that final spot wide open.

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Boomer
1 month ago

Since Bowman would not be on the US coaching staff, does that mean he would not be with the US swim team for training camp..? Seems a bit of a disadvantage for his US swimmers. I presume in Paris they will still get to see him but he would be prioritising being there for Marchand whenever he needs him, so they may not get to talk to him as and when as well.

Last edited 1 month ago by Boomer
oxyswim
1 month ago

I think with Meehan it doesn’t hurt that he’s worked with Simone as much as anyone.

Just sayin'
1 month ago

What about Blaire Bachman Anderson? She is arguably one of the best female mid distance coaches in the country and has coached Madden and Alex Walsh and has been on International staffs. Not to mention the trust Todd has in her. If you are going to choose a female for the staff, she would be my choice!

Swammer
Reply to  Just sayin'
1 month ago

Agreed

WAHOOOFAN
Reply to  Just sayin'
29 days ago

Word on the street is Blaire had this position locked up, until she left for A&M and relinquished her coaching spot. Due to not being able to be away, taking over a program and having to invest more time and energy in to that side of things. She won’t be going, but I agree…one of the best

Diehard
1 month ago

I think Chris Plumb should be on staff! Taking Carol for a token female coach is wrong. Having a relay only athlete (who didn’t even do best times) is not a reason to be on staff!

Diehard
Reply to  Diehard
1 month ago

Carol inherited 3 Olympic individual medalists…..Lydia, Erica, and Leah. All failed. For good reasons maybe but they failed! Her only credit is a relay only who didn’t go best times. That is not the resume that earns being picked for USA staff. Let Lindsay deal with any issues for when women.

SupportFemaleSwimCoaches
1 month ago

I think this article stating “if there is pressure to bring on a female coach” is EXACTLY what wrong with equality in coaching in swimming. There are several great female club coaches like Coach Abi Liu. She’s a former World Champion swimmer for China who was on World Championship staff for the US team in Doha. She’s head coach of Bellevue Club Swim Team. Liu has served on the US international staff twice. In 2022, she was a coach for the 2022 Mel Zajac Invite. This fall she served as an assistant coach for the 2023 World Junior Championships where the US went on to lead the medal table.
Liu coaches Piper Enge, and was also Jassen Yep club… Read more »

WAHOOOFAN
Reply to  Braden Keith
29 days ago

Also US Citizen? There are plenty of phenomenal coaches in the country, that might not be US Citizens

SwimmerTX
1 month ago

I may be mistaken, but I believe Lindauer has served on the coaching staff for another country at one point (cannot remember where). Is that considered in the coach selection process?

Guy
Reply to  SwimmerTX
1 month ago

for Andrej Barnaj of Serbia

Swammer
1 month ago

and not being a USA Swimming official.

What an odd requirement. Any one have any insight into this? Of all the swim coaches I know, I can’t think of a single one who is also an official. (I guess they could be, an I wouldn’t know)

Swammer
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Oh — does the term “official” here mean like “referee”, or does it mean “employee of USA swimming”?

Really LONG
1 month ago

Shane Tusup outta be on the list

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

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