By Phillip Whitten
PHOENIX, Arizona, November 12. DENNIS Pursley, National Team Director of USA Swimming since March 1989, announced his resignation today, and has accepted the position of Head Coach of the Phoenix (Arizona) Swim Club — a club Pursley helped found 15 years ago.
Pursley informed his staff this morning of the decision, which becomes effective next January. An official announcement will be issued by USA Swimming this evening.
"It is with very mixed emotions that I announce my resignation," said Pursley. "This has been a wonderful opportunity that USA Swimming provided. It was my great honor and privilege to work with so many great coaches and athletes in my years here"
In a memo to his staff and volunteers, he wrote:
"After 14 years of serving as your National Team Director, I have made a decision to return to the deck as the coach of the Phoenix Swim Team. I have often said that it is the quality of people that has encouraged me to commit my professional life to the sport of swimming. It has been a great honor and privilege to work with all of you."
One of the World's Leading Swim Clubs
Just last week the 10-acre Phoenix Swim Club was bought for $1.7 million by Brophy Prep, a Catholic parochial school that has dominated Arizona high school swimming for the past three decades. With the purchase, the school acquired one of the world's most celebrated swim teams.
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Phoenix Swim Club swimmers combined to win nine Olympic medals — four gold, three silver and two bronze — more than all but five countries.
Karyn Vella, the newly-appointed Director of Brophy's East Campus, as the facility is being called, said:
"We are pleased to announce the appointment of Dennis Pursley as the new head coach for the age group and national team. Denny comes to Brophy with a wealth of knowledge, not only about swimming but about developing young athletes to achieve their highest performance.
"We know Denny's experience brings an unparalleled level of expertise to the program that will match Brophy's existing championship swimming legacy. Denny's hallmark talents of producing excellent athletes from their youth and building teams are perfectly aligned with Brophy's mission to develop students with a strong sense of self-worth who maximize their gifts."
"I helped start the Phoenix Swim Club more than 15 years ago, before leaving to come to USA Swimming," Pursley said. "This chance to go back there and return to the pool deck is one of the very few opportunities that could tempt me to leave USA Swimming. While I'm leaving my position as National Team Director, I'm not leaving the USA Swimming family."
A Distinguished Career
Pursley is credited as having been the architect of USA Swimming's success during the last three Olympic Games. In the 1992, '96 and 2000 Games, the U.S.A. established itself as the world's premier swimming power, winning 86 medals — 38 of them gold.
"It's hard for me to imagine our National Team Program not being led by Dennis Pursley," said Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming Executive Director, in a statement from Mexico City. "My consolation is that I know he will be on a pool deck working with young athletes.
"His consistent and uncompromising commitment to excellence has become the hallmark of our National Team Program. Day in and day out, he has championed the priorities and messages that have helped focus the training and competition preparations of America's top athletes and coaches."
Pursley has had a distinguished career. After coaching the Cincinnati Marlins to three national championship titles, Pursley served as the first head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport from 1981-84. He went on to coach the Olympian Swim Club in Edmonton, Alberta, for three years before becoming head coach at Phoenix. In 1989, he was appointed the first National Team Director for USA Swimming. His swimmers, including the incomparable Mary T. Meagher, have set seven world and 12 American records, and have won 20 U.S. national titles.
In 1980, Pursley was named Coach of the Year by the American Swimming Coaches Association. In 2000, he was named Coach of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
"We will immediately begin the process of identifying a new National Team Director," said Wielgus. "Our quad programming plan is still intact and a new National Team Director will have the benefit of seeing this plan through to the Athens Olympic Games."