With Sunday’s announcement that Jeremy Kipp has officially resigned from his position as the head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming & diving programs at USC, everyone’s favorite game, name the next head coach, has begun.
- When Jeremy Kipp left Northwestern, see who we thought might take his spot.
While USC has lost some of its luster in the last few years, and fallen behind Pac-12 opponents Cal and Stanford (and increasingly Arizona State on the men’s side), the gig is still a premier Division I position that could attract from most programs in the country. The list of candidates is almost endless for a job like this – maybe not akin to a job like Texas, but it’s the next tier short of that.
That means a potentially-massive list of candidates that would include the top assistant at basically every successful program in the country, along with all of the top club coaches who might be looking to make the jump.
Below, we’ve formed a list of individuals who seem like they’re at the right time and place for this gig, specifically. This isn’t a list of coaches, necessarily, that we think are most ready for a big time gig, it’s a list of coaches who we think are ready for this big time gig (with the prime example being coaches like Stefanie Moreno at Georgia and Wyatt Collins at Texas, both of whom seem destined to take over for their bosses upon pending retirement).
Whoever they choose, USC is on their third or fourth head coach in three seasons. They need stability, and I think (and hope) that will guide their decision making – especially given that Kipp is far from the first controversy that USC has head in its athletics department in the last decade.
That makes me lean toward someone with head coaching experience, and especially collegiate head coaching experience. There are a lot of club coaches who have had a lot of success and seem like they want to make the jump, but to me, USC isn’t in a position to take a chance.
The Obvious Choice
Lea Maurer, Interim Head Coach, USC – The most obvious choice, and the one that I think USC is headed for, is the program’s current interim head coach Lea Maurer. The biggest feather in her cap is Pac-12 head coaching experience at Stanford for 7 seasons, where she lead the women. She seems to have support of alumni and parents, especially after helping the team jump this year at Pac 12s. The men’s team finished 4th with 449 points, which was their best finish since 2018 and a 35 point improvement even with the return of Arizona State to the mix. The women’s team finished 3rd with 1373.5, which is a 367.5 point improvement over last season.
And let’s quash the narrative that she was a flop at Stanford. It’s not clear where that came from, but the Cardinal never finished lower than 5th at the NCAA Championships, and were as high as 2nd place in 2010.
Top Collegiate Candidates
Tyler Fenwick, Associate Head Coach, Virginia – Tyler Fenwick loves Southern California, so he’s going to think very hard about this position. As an associate head coach at the most successful women’s program in the country and a rapidly-improving men’s program, he will get interviews for a lot of gigs. He understands the DeSorbo model for rebuilding a program, he understands the social media world that dominates southern California and how to successfully apply it to recruiting, and he has the hot hand.
Rachel Stratton-Mills, Associate Head Coach, Arizona State – Stratton-Mills doesn’t have collegiate head coaching experience, per se, but she is given a lot of responsibility by Bob Bowman at Arizona State, a rising program. She also has club head coaching experience at Asphalt Green in New York City. That is not the same as collegiate head coaching experience, but club head coaching + collegiate associate head coaching makes up a pretty solid base.
Herbie Behm, Assistant Coach, Arizona State – While he’s a deviation from what I previously said about head coaches, the temptation of a hot-handed sprint coach from within the same conference might be enough to change that. Behm is clearly smart, engaged, willing to learn and evolve – sometimes that can be as valuable as experience (and are frequently not qualities of problem coaches).
Katie Robinson, Head Coach, Northwestern – While it didn’t ultimately work out, there was something that USC liked about Jeremy Kipp when they interviewed him. Robinson was an assistant for Kipp at Northwestern, his last stop, and she has taken over after his departure and continued that program’s upward momentum. Maybe most importantly, that includes continuing success in recruiting to an expensive academically-elite private school in an urban environment. If she can do that with Chicago winters, imagine what she could do with LA weather. I don’t know if Robinson is looking, or if she feels like she has unfinished business at Northwestern still, but it doesn’t seem like it will be long before she has the opportunity to jump to a top 10 program.
I can dream, can’t I?
Ben Titley, Unemployed – I think Ben Titley’s next job will be closer to home in Europe, with twin babies on the way, but after departing the High Performance Center in Toronto, Canada, he’s on the prowl for a new gig. His group in Toronto leading into the Olympic Games, especially with collegiate swimmers Taylor Ruck and Maggie MacNeil back home, was arguably the best in the world. He has absolutely no experience in collegiate coaching, so he would have to be paired with a very experienced associate head coach. This one is incredibly-unlikely, but on serendipity of the moment, it’s fun to think about.
Ron Aitken, Head Coach, Sandpipers of Nevada – Aitken put three swimmers, all women, on the Tokyo 2020 US Olympic Team, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of his success in 27 years with the Sandpipers of Nevada. Being in Nevada, his local pull and reputation are there too. No inside info, but I feel like Aitken wants to get into the college game, and that now is his moment to capitalize. But, given his length of time at one specific program, with no collegiate experience, I don’t think this is the time or place, though I know that a lot of club coaches around the country are keen to see him be the canary-in-the-coal-mine for proving club coaches can make that jump. If I’m writing the future, I like a scenario where whoever is hired as the head coach brings Aitken on as an associate (I think this is a very good situation for that move) with eyes on a program of his own down the line.
El prestigioso coach británico Ben Titley, gran apuesta de la natación española | Publicaciones | Real Federación Española de Natación (rfen.es)
USC alum Rob Orr
Speaking of coaching turnovers — what’s going on across town at UCLA? Heard some rumblings about staff & team issues…
swimnerd/usccheer – please stick to one username in a thread. Thanks.
UCLA swim coaches have done far worse than what we’ve heard about Kipp. Many swimmers have stepped up and told UCLA Athletics Dept what’s going. Now everyone is just waiting for AD Martin Jarmond to do something to protect the swimmers.
Heard the same, apparently an investigation and recruiting suspension?!?
Trent “The Pipe” Pellini for head coach seems like the only logical option.
They should hire KEVIN ZACHER and then he could bring in Ron Aitken!!!!
Chip Klein! Best coach out there.
Wow! The attention and buzz on this topic is phenomenal with 138 posts so far — and counting. I’m a big fan of collegiate (Division 1 Primarily Pac-12) athletics both men’s and women’s programs. Glad to see the interest for what some would consider a “minor” or “Olympic sport” like swimming. But with March madness ramping up and Spring Football coming soon, my focus will shift.
I’ll be following the story about USC’s selection of its next HC. The right person can immediately elevate the USC swim program to elite levels and be a magnet for talent to LA as the “home court” for the upcoming 2028 Olympics.
I’ve been impressed with what Lea Maurer has done in… Read more »
Katie Robinson is one of the greatest coaches in collegiate swimming right now!! Hiring her is a no-brainer!!
After swimming under her, can’t agree with that one…
Both teams comfortably 5th and 6th in the big10?
Both teams are improving in overall scores every year
Mike Bottom? USC alum , coaches combined program , former successful assistant at USC
Isn’t Mike about 70 years young?