Thursday, August 22, 2013

College Athletic Directors Knock it Out of the Park

A lucky swimmer gets advice from the human espresso shot, Brendon Bray
Every college swimming off season is a seemingly endless game of musical chairs. Inevitably a big domino will fall in the middle of April and the shuffling of chairs begins. With students back on campus, most (head coaching) jobs have been filled. The recent slew of hires confirmed for me a thought I had at the beginning of the game: college AD's really rocked it this summer.

It is the nature of swimming as a sport that most of the best jobs come at the mercy of people who know little, if anything, about swimming. In this case I am speaking of athletic directors, who overwhelmingly draw from a background other than swimming and frequently have more cursory knowledge in other sports. This can lead to hires that are head scratchers in the swimming community, we wonder why the candidate with the best perception in swimming circles didn't get the job. It's simple, because many coaches struggle to translate their swimming knowledge into something that a layman can understand and appreciate.

But something different happened this summer. A lot of coaches with swimming "cred", got jobs. Not the biggest and flashiest jobs, but good jobs in college coaching. Maybe I'm feeling a little biased since many are from "my" generation, thus I know and respect them personally. Rather than linger on that thought, let's talk about some hires this off season that kicked some major ass:

1. Rich Murphy, Houston

In the college game, recruiting is the name of the game. When I worked in Atlanta, the first club I ever visited was Rich's Alpharetta branch of Dynamo swim club. I came back many times after. The reasons were simple; every time I visited Rich had a great swimming conversation (or two) held in his back pocket. He had swimmers that obviously enjoyed being at practice with him and took their swimming seriously. Most importantly, he was the type of club coach that worked really hard to help his swimmers in recruiting without turning into a shameless advocate for them. He shot you straight about who he was coaching and because I could trust the information I often felt I could move forward more confidently in recruiting. All of those are assets that are really going to help him as the boss in Houston

2. Brendon Bray North Texas/Joe Dykstra Utah

Sorry to lump you into one post guys, but these two moves were like a best case scenario for coaching musical chairs. It started with Dykstra, a hire that stunned a lot of people at Utah, except those who took an objective look at this results while at North Texas and then nodded approvingly. Of all the people on this list, Joe is the one who I barely know. Plain and simple, you aren't as successful as he was at North Texas without being really good at your job. When he left I felt a little sad for North Texas: could they do any better for a head coach.

Turns out, maybe they could. In many ways Brendon Bray is like your typical swim junkie coach. Only if your typical swim junkie had a constant drip of 5 hour energy flowing through his veins. Brendon and I met through a mutual acquaintance and I felt like every time we talked a little more of his energy bled over to me. He's like a walking shot of espresso. Did I mention energy?

3. Richard Long JMU

Another situation in which the departing coach (Samantha Smith) really overachieved the school's typical level of performance. So what do they do? Go grab an Auburn coach (and Virginia native) who mixes as much passion for swimming as he has charisma to share it. Richard Long is possibly so charismatic that he convinced me to write nice things about him getting a head coach job long before I actually wrote this. Maybe he's so charismatic that I don't even care.

So it was a good off season. Could it have been better? Of course. There are still plenty of smart, passionate swimming coaches who work their asses off who didn't get a look this summer. Still, in the grand scheme this was a pretty phenomenal summer.

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