Team USA Has 2 Obvious Choices for Paris 2024 Olympic Head Coaches

The book on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics hasn’t been fully closed. There is still competition remaining in 4 of the 5 aquatic disciplines, including open water, and plenty of other thrilling finishes across sports to win.

But we’re going to start looking at Paris 2024 anyway. And among the first orders of business in the condensed 3-year schedule is to figure out who will be the Team USA head coaches for the next Olympic Games.

Before Tokyo, those head coaches were named in late 2018 as Cal’s Dave Durden and Stanford’s Greg Meehan. Those picks made absolute sense – both coaches had hot hands at the time. Meehan’s Stanford team was the new wonder-child of the NCAA, having won two straight NCAA titles, and at the time he coached the two primo American superstars Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel.

Durden’s Cal team was, along with Texas, at the top of the men’s NCAA world, and he had sent a whopping four swimmers for just the American men’s team in Rio. That means he was the coach of a quarter of the Olympic Team.

There are a few criteria for choosing an Olympic Team head coach for the USA. Some are written, while others are sort of understood to frame the discussion but not really put out in public.

Here are the 5 written requirements:

  1. They must be a USA Swimming National Team staff member.
  2. They must be a United States citizen.
  3. The coaches must be in good health, and “able to withstand the physical rigors of traveling with and working with the team.”
  4. They must be available for the entirety of the Games.
  5. They must have previous USA Swimming team leader or USA Swimming managerial experience at high level competitions, i.e. Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan Pac Championships.

That leaves a fairly-large pool. In 2016, we identified 7 strong candidates and another 4 possible candidates for the job.

From there, the selections get more subjective. Coaches who are going to have a lot of athletes at the meet make sense. Coaches who are used to leading big groups makes sense. Coaches who have even demeanors and who have shown the ability to be accepting of different personalities and training styles will be viewed with a keener eye than those who might be more dogmatic in their ideas of “right” versus “wrong,” especially as training becomes more divergent around the country.

And remember that they have to be willing. They have to have the energy to both manage their ‘regular’ job and the Olympic head coaching job, which, by the way, is a volunteer position. This tends to lend itself to younger coaches in a relative sense – we probably won’t see 82-year old Eddie Reese leading the American team, even for all of his accomplishments.

While we could put together a big list of candidates (and we will at some point), in my mind, the two obvious choices have already emerged:

Todd DeSorbo from the University of Virginia as women’s coach and Anthony Nesty from the University of Florida as men’s coach are the clear-cut front-runners.

Stating the Cases

Todd DeSorbo, University of Virginia

For Todd DeSorbo, the case is simple: he is leading the hottest women’s swimming group in the country right now at the University of Virginia.

Virginia won the 2021 NCAA Championship in women’s swimming with a young team, and they probably would’ve won in 2020 too if those championships weren’t canceled.

What’s more, the Virginia training group sent 5 swimmers as part of Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 4 of them were on that NCAA Championship team: Paige MaddenKate Douglass, and Alex Walsh. Another, Emma Weyant, deferred the start of her Virginia career, but will be there next year. A 5th, Catie DeLoof, makes up the entirety of the Virginia post-grad group.

Every single one of them came home with an Olympic medal.

And that doesn’t include what they have coming in, ala Gretchen Walsh, who will be a freshman next season, and who is on an Olympic path as well.

Between now and Paris, it seems probable that the Virginia women will win most, or all, of the NCAA titles, and more top name swimmers will join the team (like the wave we saw from Greg Meehan and Stanford coming into the meet).

DeSorbo’s resume isn’t perfect, and we should acknowledge those weaknesses. He hasn’t been a head coach of anything for very long, only taking over the Virginia program in 2017. He also doesn’t have that much international coaching experience. The Olympics were his first official Team USA trip – that means no Jr. Pan Pacs, no Worlds, no World University Games, no Pan Am Games, no Pan Pacs. With the condensed schedule of Worlds-Worlds-Olympics coming up, there’s not a ton of time to fix that, but at a minimum he needs to be made the head coach of Team USA for the 2022 World Championships with a chance to prove that this is not an issue.

He also is the coach of a co-ed collegiate team. That takes a lot of work. Meehan and Durden both only coach one gender at their home colleges.

But none of this, if he’s willing, should override the obvious. He definitely brings a higher plane of energy to the pool deck than Meehan and Durden, and brings a more outward personality. But that’s not necessarily bad, so much as it’s different, and is maybe a change that the U.S. needs as they look to regain dominance on the Olympic stage.

Anthony Nesty, Head Coach, University of Florida

Courtesy: University of Florida Athletics

Like the Virginia women, the Florida men were the clear highlight of the Olympic Games. Kieran Smith (bronze in the 400 free) and Bobby Finke (gold in the 800 and 1500 free) re-wrote the narrative on American distance swimming. Caeleb Dressel lived up to the hype and is the face of Team USA, swimming or otherwise, at these Olympics so far.

After these performances, Florida recruiting, which was already pretty good, is going to take off – and just in time, as Nesty is now the head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams at Florida.

Dressel usually speaks primarily of Nesty’s predecessor, Gregg Troy, as “his coach,” though we know of course that Nesty was Troy’s understudy for a long time and that multiple coaches on that staff, including Steve Jungbluth, have a hand in his training.

But ultimately, the next 3 years are going to see a shift of the Florida program from the “post-Troy era” to the “full-blown Nesty era.”

He also brings an X-factor in that he’s an Olympic gold medalist. He is arguably, already, the most successful swim coach ever who has an Olympic gold medal. We know that’s not a requirement since so many of the world’s top coaches don’t have Olympic medals, but for a country looking to recapture some cachet, that could be an interesting psychological motivator.

Nesty’s shortcomings of resume are similar to DeSorbo’s. He hasn’t been a head coach for very long, taking over the Florida men 3 years ago and the women in the spring.

While he has more international experience than DeSorbo, most of it has been for smaller nations: assistant coach for Suriname at the 2004 Olympics, head coach at the 2008 Olympics, and an  assistant on the Cayman Islands team at the World Championships in 2009, among others. While these trips still provide valuable experiences for him, that’s nowhere near the same scale of responsibility as Olympic head coach for Team USA.

He’s been on at least one US travel staff – he was on deck for the 2011 World University Games.

But this is still something where the U.S. will have to make sure they give him the opportunities to gain that experience before Paris.

While Nesty can certainly get his volume up when he needs to, he’s generally reserved and soft-spoken, so he and DeSorbo could prove to be good foils and balance each other.

It’s worth acknowledging that Nesty, already the first Black man to win an Olympic gold medal, would become the first Black man to lead Team USA at the Olympics. That could support a lot of domestic initiatives related to diversifying the sport in America. It won’t be part of USA Swimming’s decision-making process, but is an important outcome none-the-less.

There are a few other names who will be considered for this position: Ray Looze from Indiana and Jack Bauerle from Georgia chief among them. With only 3 years remaining until Paris, though, it’s going to be hard for anybody to do much to shift this decision away from DeSorbo in Nesty in my mind.

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Hoosier Daddy
1 month ago

Swimswam, it seems you have forgot the most obvious choice, Coach Ray Looze of the mighty IU Hoosiers. Under his guidance, the US would clean sweep every single event. This should not even be a discussion!! Looze 2024

swimapologist
Reply to  Hoosier Daddy
1 month ago

Read to the end. They gave him a tip of the cap.

I think we can read between the lines and say that maybe Looze doesn’t have a demeanor on deck that is great for being the top of the pile for the entire Team USA. He’s had a lot of great success with his swimmers, but I’m not sure how many of America’s top coaches would want their athletes following his lead for the full duration.

Blairt
Reply to  swimapologist
1 month ago

I rarely agree w swimapologist, but in this case they are correct. Ray gets alot of credit for swimmers he dosent coach (Pieroni/Apple), and Lilly and Annie are on their way out.
Ray’s attitude/demeanor is abrasive and hard to deal with for many, and he has a reputation (well earned) for being irrational and quick tempered.
Anthony has done a great job with Kieren and Finke, but cannot lay any claim to Caleb as Troy gets full credit there.
Todd seems quirky and basically inherited some really fast swimmers which he admittedly made faster. But his inexperience may show at the higher level.
Hopefully USA is done w Meehan, Durden, and Mintenko. Time for a change to be sure.

nice
Reply to  Blairt
1 month ago

Hopefully MCKeever is out too!

Toastedcoconut
Reply to  nice
1 month ago

The US did amazing in 2012 with McKeever as head coach. Plus abbey and Katie had some great swims in Tokyo so.. I don’t see your point

Jack
Reply to  Toastedcoconut
1 month ago

Thank you for clocking nice. Agree that Teri McKeever has had great success in 2012 and these games as well!

nice
Reply to  Toastedcoconut
1 month ago

I don’t see a case for mckeever to be a head coach in this article…. that’s my point.

RMS
Reply to  Toastedcoconut
1 month ago

Meehan’s swimmers captured more medals in Tokyo so there’s that.

Coach
Reply to  nice
1 month ago

Her swimmers dropped time in all of their events.

RMS
Reply to  Coach
1 month ago

One silver medal. A relay.

Coach
Reply to  RMS
1 month ago

Cal women won more than one medal.

Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Reply to  nice
1 month ago

Weitzeil and McLaughlin showed up at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics unlike Manuel and Forde.

Abbey Weitzeil outsplit Simone Manuel in the final of the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay (52.68 vs 52.96).

Katie McLaughlin outsplit Brooke Forde in the heats of the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay (1:56.02 vs 1:57.00).

Simone Manuel failed to qualify for the final of the women’s 50 meter freestyle. Shocking!

Last edited 1 month ago by Smith-Jacoby-Huske-Weitzeil
Dan
Reply to  Blairt
1 month ago

I agree with a lot of what you say, but I thought that Todd had recruited a lot of the fast swimmers that he is coaching, a few were handed down from before.

Jay Ryan
Reply to  Blairt
1 month ago

Irrational? I think of Coach Looze as analytic!

nope
Reply to  Hoosier Daddy
1 month ago

wrong. the most obvious choice is actually hunter armstrong

Swammerstein
Reply to  nope
1 month ago

since he had a disappointing games and nearly cost the usa medley relay a spot in finals by swimming 1 sec off his time from trials, can the hunter armstrong jokes stop?

nope
Reply to  Swammerstein
1 month ago

read my username

Last edited 1 month ago by nope
Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Swammerstein
1 month ago

Agree. Done with the Dean and Armstrong stuff.

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 month ago

only talk about dean if its tom or boxall

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Old Man Chalmers
1 month ago

I’ll stick with Tom. The other dude needs to be on lithium.

Bruh
Reply to  nope
1 month ago

Him and dean hop out after golds and go right back to coaching

Willswim
Reply to  Hoosier Daddy
1 month ago

Wasn’t Looze the coach when the relay swam out of order?

2Fat4Speed
1 month ago

Absolutely agree here. Both of these coaches are great!

yardfan
Reply to  2Fat4Speed
1 month ago

not Nesty.

Nordic
1 month ago

Is Nesty a US citizen?

Mike
Reply to  Nordic
1 month ago

Yes

Eyeballer
Reply to  Nordic
1 month ago

I don’t think citizenship comes into play with head Olympic coaches. Dennis Pursley has been the head Olympic coach for 3 different countries: USA, Australia, and UK. He is a US citizen.

The Weez
Reply to  Eyeballer
1 month ago

Read the article above. It’s literally listed as being one of the five written requirements.

commonwombat
Reply to  The Weez
1 month ago

For USA – yes. For most other countries – no

FST
Reply to  Nordic
1 month ago

I was thinking the same thing…

PsychoDad
1 month ago

Good article, Braden. USA needs new coaching and swimming blood.

Yes, “too late” for Eddie, but Wyatt will be the head coach at that time, and with Carson and few others on the team, he would be an assistant coach in Paris.

Last edited 1 month ago by PsychoDad
BillyBob
1 month ago

I vote they make a calculator the coach. That way we get a reasonable MMR

USA
1 month ago

Durden sent five to Rio

Chris
1 month ago

No females???

samulih
Reply to  Chris
1 month ago

usa is known for this. so no suprise

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  Chris
1 month ago

Which female coach would you select?

96Swim
1 month ago

Figure out who set the lineup for the mixed medley relay and pick anyone else.

EMH16
Reply to  96Swim
1 month ago

I second this

Swim
Reply to  96Swim
1 month ago

whoever dislikes this is British.

Yoo
Reply to  Swim
1 month ago

Bruh Brits don’t need to dislike this because even if the US had their best team they wouldn’t have won Gold.

Hank
Reply to  96Swim
1 month ago

Joe Biden called in the lineup for the mixed medley.

Ihalmiut
Reply to  Hank
1 month ago

hardy-har!

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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