By John Lohn
CRANBURY, N.J., March 9. WHEN David Marsh announced in October that he was walking away from his coaching duties at Auburn University, the speculation immediately started. Who would take the reins from the longtime coach, who is set to become the head of the Mecklenburg Aquatic Club, a United States Olympic Committee Center of Excellence? One thing was certain: Auburn wasn't about to settle for anyone less than world-class for its vacant position.
That much was proven Thursday when it was revealed that Richard Quick, one of the most successful coaches in United States history, was returning to The Plains after a 25-year absence. Yes, Auburn has replaced one coaching great with a man who has guided 12 NCAA-championship squads and has seen coaching duty in six Olympiads.
Considering the fact that Marsh (in command since 1990) has guided Auburn to 10 NCAA crowns since 1997 – six on the male side and four on the female side – finding an individual with an equally impressive portfolio could have been viewed as a major chore. But, when Quick agreed to become an advisor to the Auburn program, the writing was on the wall.
It's unlikely that anyone will admit that an agreement has long been in place, but the facts surrounding Marsh's decision to leave and Quick's decision to come on board as an advisor suggest so much to be true. At the very least, the wheels were turning. And, Auburn should be applauded for working the process in a way that guaranteed the Tigers would continue under the direction of a legend. Collegiate athletics are a business and what needed to be done obviously was done.
The coach at Auburn from 1978-82, Quick moved from the state of Alabama to the University of Texas, where he guided the women's program to five consecutive NCAA titles from 1984-88. He then moved to Stanford, where he spent the next 17 years capturing seven NCAA championships before retiring after the 2005 campaign. At the age of 64, he's back on the deck, accompanied by three Olympic head-coaching stints (1988, 1996, 2000) and three nods as an Olympic assistant (1984, 1992, 2004).
With Quick returning to the Orange Blue, any apprehension concerning Auburn's ability to remain a national power can be put to rest. See, if the Tigers had turned to a rising star on the coaching scene, there would have been reason to wonder whether Marsh's success would be sustained. That's not a knock on any of those rising stars, but more an homage to what Marsh has accomplished.
Yet, with Quick manning a stopwatch, who is going to question that hire? Answer: Nobody in his/her right mind. Yes, Quick might be a year from social-security age and his second tenure at Auburn isn't likely to span a significant period of time, i.e. two decades worth of coaching. But, recruits will be sure to venture to a place where they can work with an all-time great, and half the battle is attracting talent. The second half of the battle also won't be a problem. The man can coach. Simply look at the aforementioned achievements.
"We are extremely pleased to have Richard Quick return to the Auburn family," said Athletic Direcor Jay Jacobs. "Richard has experienced tremendous success at every level of coaching and is very familiar with Auburn, the Auburn community and the swimming and diving program. He was the architect of the Auburn program in its early stages and helped lay the foundation for what the program is today."
Now, he's back, and Auburn couldn't have played its cards any better. Consider the move a straight flush.