After the surprising retirement of longtime coach Rick DeMont, the University of Arizona has a head coaching opening, one of the more high-profile job openings in recent memory in college swimming. Though we don’t know exactly what the Arizona athletic department is thinking, here’s a look at some of the top potential candidates whose names we’ve heard floated for the job.
There are a couple factors that make the Arizona job hunt interesting. Arizona just hired a new athletic director, Dave Heeke, who’s been on the job about a month. This will be his first major coaching hire, which adds one level of uncertainty. Another comes from the fact that Heeke previously worked at Central Michigan and Oregon – two schools without varsity swim & dive programs.
On the other hand, the University of Arizona itself has a number of ties to people within the swimming community, most notably through former head coach Frank Busch, who is now USA Swimming’s National Team Director. A number of the top names on our list have Busch ties, which would make sense from a hiring perspective if Heeke reaches out to Busch or USA Swimming for consultation during the search process.
Of course, this list is non-exhaustive, and there could be other well-qualified candidates with Arizona ties out there. If there’s someone you think we missed, tack their name on in the comments section.
Sam Busch or Augie Busch
The first two names on the list have very close ties to Frank Busch – familial ones. Sam and Augie are sons to Frank and both spent time coaching at Arizona before moving on to other programs. At this point, Augie is the head coach at Virginia and seems to be pretty well embedded there, though he could certainly make the jump to Tucson. Sam has been an assistant at Virginia since 2013 and could be a candidate for a head coaching job after roughly a decade in the coaching realm.
Marsh’s name is going to be chronically linked to literally any job opening at any level until his long-term plans are revealed. One of the most successful college coaches in history, Marsh built Auburn into a powerhouse in the mid-2000s, but left that role for the club level in 2007. He’s with North Carolina-based SwimMAC since then, heading up a rapidly-expanding professional training group connected with the club.
He recently stepped away from his head coaching and CEO duties with the club and said he plans to keep coaching Team Elite (the group of pros formerly connected to SwimMAC), but hasn’t yet spoken on the specifics of the next step of his career. If Marsh were interested in returning to the college realm, he’d be a huge get for Arizona, and we’d also see an interesting merger on the professional level between Team Elite and Arizona’s established Tucson Ford Dealer Aquatics.
Another name perennially floated as a candidate for major head coaching openings is Yuri Suguiyama, who’s been a popular and successful assistant with the Cal men’s program. Before Cal, Suguiyama coached the Nation’s Capital Swim Club during Katie Ledecky‘s breakout years, and Ledecky’s name is a pretty good one to have on one’s resume.
The head men’s and women’s coach at Minnesota, Kremer was offered the Arizona job back in 2011, but chose to stay at Minnesota, where he’d been coaching in some capacity since 1998. Kremer has produced a number of NCAA champs on the women’s side at Minnesota and would bring head coaching experience in a combined program to Arizona, something not many candidates have. But the big question is if Kremer chose not to leave Minnesota six years ago, what would convince him to take the Arizona job the second time around?
Another candidate with combined program head coaching experience and Arizona ties is Missouri’s Greg Rhodenbaugh. He was an assistant with Busch at Arizona for 11 years before taking over the Missouri program, which he’s turned into one of the fastest-rising in the NCAA. He just recently produced the program’s first-ever NCAA champ (breaststroker Fabian Schwingenschlogl) and has the Tigers fighting for top 10 spots as a team at NCAAs.
Kremer, Rhodenbaugh, Augie Busch and Whitney Hite are all current head coaches who are maybe less likely to jump to a new program, but certainly qualify as dream candidates from Arizona’s perspective. Hite was an assistant to Frank Busch during Busch’s last two years in Tucson and has coaching experience with a couple of big-name programs: Georgia (women’s assistant, 1998-2003) and Cal (women’s assistant, 2004-2006), plus was the head coach for men and women at Washington before his time at Arizona. Now, Hite is at Wisconsin, where he’s got the Badger men and women swimming as well as they ever have, particularly the Wisconsin freestylers of all distances.
Another former Arizona assistant, Roric Fink is now an assistant with the Texas women, who are rapidly gaining steam in the NCAA. Fink was with Arizona for 8 seasons in the mid-2000s and also coached a number of key athletes with Tuscon Ford Dealer Aquatics, Arizona’s companion club/professional hub.
DeSorbo doesn’t have Arizona ties, but has gained a lot of notoriety for his assistant coaching role with NC State, one of the fastest-rising programs in the nation. The Wolfpack men and women have gone from ACC obscurity to the NCAA’s elite tier, and DeSorbo has been with the program through that whole rise, starting with the team in 2011. DeSorbo was previously an assistant at UNC – Wilmington, his alma mater. Though he does have some head coaching experience at the club level, he hasn’t yet been a head coach for a college program.