Longtime University of Texas associate head coach Kris Kubik has announced his retirement after 34 years working with head coach Eddie Reese and the Longhorns. Together, the pair won 12 NCAA team championships; and scored 26 NCAA top-three finishes and 32 NCAA top-five finishes (all but two of his seasons).
The two first connected at Auburn, where Kubik was a student assistant during Reese’s final season as the head coach there. Reese brought Kubik with him to Austin, and together the two have built one of the greatest runs in college sports history.
“My health is as good as it possibly could be, and I’m quite content,” Kubik said about the reasons for his retirement. “I love The University of Texas, and I love Austin. I’ve come to grips with the fact that sooner or later I would have to stop doing this and this just seems, at the end of the (Olympic) quadrennial, to be a very good time to do it.”
See the full press release below.
AUSTIN, Texas – Kris Kubik, an associate head coach who helped build The University of Texas Men’s Swimming and Diving program into a perennial national power, announced his retirement Monday after 34 seasons of exemplary service under UT head coach Eddie Reese.
A 2011 inductee into the UT Athletics Men’s Hall of Honor, Kubik leaves the Forty Acres on Aug. 31 as one of the most distinguished and influential coaches in the history of Texas Athletics. The affable Kubik, who served two stints under Reese at Texas (1979-81, 1986-2016), helped lead the Longhorns to 12 NCAA team titles, including back-to-back national titles in 2015 and 2016, in addition to nine NCAA runner-up finishes.
In Kubik’s 34 seasons with Reese, Texas posted 26 NCAA top-three finishes and 32 NCAA top-five team showings. The Longhorns produced 54 NCAA individual titles and 42 NCAA relay titles under the Reese-Kubik partnership, which yielded 32 Olympians who won 36 gold medals, 16 silver medals and eight bronze medals. The tandem won conference team titles in 33 of its 34 seasons together.
“There is a time in everyone’s career, be it coaching or whatever profession they so choose, that the chapter should close and one should move on to the next page and see what that holds,” Kubik said. “There’s not a defining moment for me in terms of why this is occurring right now. I just feel at this point it would be best for the program and for me to let someone else come in, enjoy the experiences I’ve had and be a part of the very special group of guys we have right now.
“My health is as good as it possibly could be, and I’m quite content,” Kubik continued. “I love The University of Texas, and I love Austin. I’ve come to grips with the fact that sooner or later I would have to stop doing this and this just seems, at the end of the (Olympic) quadrennial, to be a very good time to do it.”
Kubik and Reese began their coaching association in the 1977-78 season at Auburn, where Kubik served as a student assistant coach during Reese’s sixth and final season as the head coach of the Tigers. Reese left Auburn for Texas in the spring of 1978, brought Kubik with him as an assistant coach and elevated Texas Men’s Swimming and Diving among the nation’s elite collegiate sports programs.
“Every once in a while, we come across someone in our sport who is just a prodigy at anything and everything he does,” Reese said. “Kris is one of those guys. He’s a genius from knowing how to fix anything that goes wrong at the pool or with one of the swimmers or if something goes wrong with me! He has made it his primary tenet to take care of the guys on the team and take care of me. Kris has never worried about himself this whole time. There is no chance of ever replacing Kris, and we will miss him dearly.”
The partnership of Reese and Kubik ushered in a peerless standard of excellence at Texas that has flourished through five different decades and shows no signs of letting up. Reese and Kubik paced Texas to a 21st-place national finish in their first season at Texas in 1979 and haven’t finished outside the top-seven at the NCAA Championships since.
“I truly have never looked at Eddie as a boss,” Kubik said. “I’ve looked him straight in the eye as a dear friend. I walked on to the pool deck every day and worked with a true genius. It would be like being an associate scientist with Albert Einstein or having John Wooden standing next to you. He made every single day an adventure. The atmosphere in our practices and on team trips was always full of life and excitement. He makes people believe that they could do things, and then sure enough, they go and do it.”
Reese and Kubik led Texas to a NCAA runner-up finish at the 1980 NCAA Championships and delivered the University its first NCAA men’s swimming and diving title in 1981. Kubik then went on to take a coaching position with the Nashville Aquatic Club. He later returned to Austin as a coach with the Longhorn Aquatics club program. Kubik rejoined Reese on the Longhorns’ men’s swimming and diving coaching staff in advance of the 1985-86 season and rekindled what he and Reese started six years earlier.
With Kubik back on staff, Texas placed third at the 1986 NCAA Championships and fifth at the 1987 NCAA Championships before winning four consecutive NCAA crowns from 1988-91. The Longhorns posted four more NCAA top-four finishes before winning their sixth NCAA crown in 1996.
Under Reese and Kubik, UT added NCAA top-four showings from 1997-99 before claiming its seventh, eighth and ninth national titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Texas notched NCAA runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2009 before claiming its 10th NCAA title in 2010. The Horns chalked up NCAA runner-up finishes in three of the next four seasons before winning their 11th national title in 2015.
The 2016 Longhorns went a perfect 10-0 in dual meets, won the school’s 37th consecutive conference title, set seven NCAA records and four American records en route to their 12th NCAA team title. Four members of that team – Townley Haas, Jack Conger, Clark Smith and Joseph Schooling – are ticketed for next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“Our program is in a very good spot,” Kubik continued. “Eddie continues to amaze me with his ability to keep things fresh and new, and the team we have returning might be up there as one of the best teams we’ve ever had, in terms of personalities, in terms of caring about one another and in terms of continuing on the tradition that was established well before we got here. Whoever replaces me will inherit a fantastic group of students who are exceptional athletes, and, more importantly, are exceptional people.”
Kubik lent his expertise to several U.S. national teams, as well. He served as an assistant coach for the United States at the 2007 Pan American Games and was a special assistant for the USA Swimming coaching staff at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
He also served Team USA as an assistant coach at the 2009 FINA World Championships and the 2015 World University Games.
“To be a part of each day with so many wonderful people over a long period of time has been priceless,” Kubik said. “I hope when people reflect back on Kris Kubik, they would say quite simply that he cared and it showed. I don’t know if I always did the right thing for people, but I tried to. I always listened to my heart and strived to do what was best for each swimmer and diver.”
Additional reflections from Kris Kubik
On helping to establish Texas as a college swimming and diving power
I think the best way some people might think to describe the experience I’ve had here would be to say, “Yes, it was fun and nice and great to win 12 NCAA championships.” But, more importantly, hopefully we’ve touched some people’s lives in a very positive way.
The record book will show that we won 12 NCAA titles, but the day-to-day interaction is something that can’t be written about or adequately described unless you’re a part of it.
When I was inducted into the (UT Athletics) Men’s Hall of Honor, I said something along the lines of, “I was receiving an honor or an award, but I truly had received more than I gave.” I feel that’s true.
It’s crazy to think about the accomplishments of so many people here. People will look at who won an Olympic gold medal or who broke a world record. They won’t necessarily know who came in at 51 seconds in the 100 butterfly and dropped down to 48 seconds and how much that meant to the team, or when there were other people who came in at a 48 and dropped down to a 45. Sometimes the kid who goes from 51 to 48 inspired the one to go from 48 to 45. That’s special.
On his coaching partnership with Eddie Reese
I think Eddie and I are a lot alike in the way that we treat people and the way we interact with people. That always made this job easy. It just felt right. I came way back in 1977 to Auburn as basically a volunteer assistant to coach for one year under Eddie. It’s 2016 and I’m still working with Eddie.
I think that speaks volumes for the kind of person he is, and I surely would not have done it all these years next to him or alongside of him had it not been something that was uniquely special. I truly have always appreciated when our swimmers are interviewed and they say Eddie and Kris. That’s really important to me.
On the support system at The University of Texas
One of the real blessings of being a part of this program has been the support we’ve received at every level at UT, be it the president of the university or the athletics director…the academic advisors, people like Mary Juarez who work with us on a daily basis. People look at our program and they think it’s Eddie Reese and Kris Kubik and Matt Scoggin, but it’s really a hundred people who have what I call “thankless positions.” You go to a swimming meet and there are officials on deck who are volunteering their time.
You look at the managers every single day who wash towels or make sure we have the nutrition supplies we need. Look at the people in our dining hall. Somebody’s cleaning those trays and washing those dishes. Everyone in our support staff areas contribute to making this just an incredible place in which to be a part. The support we’ve had from inside and outside UT Athletics has been wonderful. I can’t fathom it’s like this anywhere else on the planet. It’s just a great, great university community here.